Dated on September 4th, 2004, from Phnom Penh
/ Good climate and how good the society? /
I came back to Cambodia again at the end of August. It's the time when the projects we had started in spring were being completd. I had been grappling with the piles of documents about NPO's in Japan. So I expected that I could enjoy relaxing time in Cambodia. But I was as busy as ever after all!
It seems like dark clouds in the rainy season are also hanging over the social situation. A dam built upstream on the Mekong without permission from authorities lowered the water level. The abnormal weather has led to reduced rainfall. The country has social unrest with the prospect of poor crops. On top of that, the rising price of gasoline is tormenting the people. The price of rice has also risen in accordance. Thieves and bag snatchers are rampant in town. Most of our staff members have become victims. Crisis management has become more and more important these days.
Our staff told me about victimized Japanese girls. They came here on tour. While they were sleeping in a hotel room, they were burglarized. The thief bound their arms and legs, covered their mouths with duct tape, and stole their valuables. Because the rare opportunity to visit Angkor Watt was ruined, the girls were down. The staff said that the Cambodian government favored the girls with a trip to Angkor Watt free of charge. They were happy about what their government did. I suppose they didn't want to let this incident harm the relationship between Cambodia and Japan.
/ Wage of One Dollar a Day /
Every time we hold a school ceremony, we have many guests with various purposes. This time we visited a sewing factory by the request from a donor, Bunka Gakuen School. Sewing may be the only industry in Cambodia. We went there with the images of sewing factories in Japan, before World War II. Every morning, we saw a long procession of factory girls. We were allowed to visit the factory on condition that we would not take pictures. The factory adopted the mass production system. Many sewing machines lined up, forming many rows with aisles only wide enough for a person to pass through. There were big piles of cloth. The girls were stepping on the machine pedals without any chatting. The factory was operated by 1,200 workers on two shifts from 6:30 to 22:30. The daily target is to produce 1,000 pairs of shorts to be exported to the U.S. The gross sales are only 750 dollars. This shows how cheap Cambodian products are. The wage for a worker is 1 dollar per day!!
Unlike factories in Japan in the old days, this one was clean and air-conditioned. But we started to have throat problems only after one minute because of the fiber dust. When we were going out, we saw a guard checking a girl worker's ID card and doing a body search.
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