Broken Khmer Family in New Era of Modernization

Unofficial Translation from The Phnom Penh Post’s Khmer edition



ការ​បែកបាក់​សមាជិក​គ្រួសារ​ខ្មែរ ​បែប​សម័យ​ទំនើប​នៅ​តែ​បន្ត

Cambodian migrants to work in Thailand through Poi Pet border recently. Photo: Heng Chivoan

“Chinese chases away Cambodian chasing away the ghost” it is the old saying while Chinese people flew into Cambodia and headed for the city or downtown to compete for the works and markets; that was the reason persuading some Cambodians to sell out their lands or houses and relocate to the quiet and rural areas or build their new houses on the grave later.

However, at the meantime in the modern time, the slogan is upgraded to “Chinese chases away Cambodians migrating abroad” while Chinese reign and influence just return back in place after it was quite silent for while after the collapse of the Pol Pot regime.

Looking at the huge and tall buildings, most are the Chinese ownership; development project over the lakes, garment and footwear and mine exploration are all Chinese companies an factories and even though, economic land concession for agricultural development project, Chinese is ranked at the top.

For the rough calculation, it is up to 500000 hectares of land, according to the Foreign Development Investment in 2017. For some economic land concession, they have affected the livelihood of Cambodians—some of whom lose their land, other lose their houses and some other more lose the income sources originating from the forestry benefits and farming—decided to migrate to the city as the blue collar workers and abroad legally and illegally.

The large scale of such investment, at the first glance, seems to reflect the progress and stability of the 7{5e4ee91c08cb3c7f146c4aae02e529f146f15280100a09ade5af78d570d7fd3d} national annual economic growth and it seems to employ a huge amount of labor as well.

For China, it consistently adheres to the objectives of One Belt, One Road Initiative between itself and Phnom Penh government and the targeted province which China has invested the most so far is Preah Sihanouk province.

China has turned the province into the casinos and special economic zone and the development usually is compared with the Shenzhen city, China. Another special case is that Cambodian government permits the Chinese flight to directly go in and out at Korng Keng airport located in Preah Sihanouk province.

​From 1994 to 2016, the investment in agricultural, industrial, infrastructural, service and tourism sectors is about 14.7 Billion US$ (FDI, 2017).

In comparison with US investment which is 36 Billion US$ is the value of Cambodian goods exported to the US from 1997 till present day; 90{5e4ee91c08cb3c7f146c4aae02e529f146f15280100a09ade5af78d570d7fd3d} of which is clothes and footwear, according official Facebook Page of US Embassy to Cambodia.

Unfortunately, it is worrisome as the both superpowers are competing for geopolitical influence which triggers the tension between Cambodian government which has seen to be heavily and deeply influenced by China and holds a strong antagonistic posture toward the US.

For the garment workers receiving $153 per month as the minimum wage will only migrate abroad as the laborers if the US government halt the export of goods from Cambodia. This is the puzzle which government must to find the precise answer for the unexpected outcome.

Albeit it is not a similar to the separation and death during 1970s to UNTAC 1993, at the present time, the separation of family members has been triggered by the poverty and lack of harmonization in the family. In short, they have to migrate and live far away from the family for the sake of survival.

The family structure has changed since they have no permanent resident and cannot manage to find a stable marriage life and once they have children, they even do not know have enough time to stay with and raise their children as they need to live far away from houses and finally, their children end up being servants from one generation to another.

It is the issue that the royal government should take it into consideration for the current modern lifestyle and it should not prioritize the family of the rich and powerful people and then, it just makes a hasty generalization by saying that the whole Cambodian society possesses peace and harmony.

The rich and powerful people are clever because they have purchased the residents in the developed countries before hand and once the problem breaks out, they just leave Cambodia for the developed countries and live there happily. The poor people remain in hardship.

On the other hand, the law permitting the foreigners to live in Cambodia with the right to purchase the house from the first floor upward and this intensifies the opportunity for Chinese and Vietnamese, most of whole intend to settle down in Cambodia, become easier.

In the long term, Chinese chases away Cambodian who migrates abroad as what has been mentioned above? Otherwise, if Chinese company heavily invest in the large scale there in Preah Sihanouk province as present day, the tourists from the West will be no longer interested in visiting the beach in the province anymore.

The Chinese investment, which has been thoroughly studied, in the long run, for example Myanmar, the investment in mines, gas and natural resources with Chinese companies which have drained everything out and left. For the new destination is Sri Lanka, which cannot afford to pay the Chinese debt, agreed to sell the port for 99 years to China. The question is that which is after Sri Lanka?

Tong Soprach is a social-affairs columnist for the Post’s Khmer edition.