Friday, August 27, 2010

Magic Man

Here's a fun post for a local street entertainer in Siem Reap. I remember watching his performance several times from my table at the Soup Dragon while eating my bowl of noodles for breakfast. Good times.

Magic Man Johnny smiles on the streets of Siem Reap where he is famous for his dangerous (and noisy) acrobatics. Photo by: ZOE TROUT

Friday, 27 August 2010 15:00 Nicky Hosford

MENTIONED to one Pub Street area bar manager that I was going to talk to the “noisy boy”, the guy who jumps through the knife-filled hoop of fire onto a dark, decrepit mattress to the blare of loud, uncomfortable music. “Oh, is that what you call him?” she asked. “We call him Magic Man. Sometimes we call him something else. Maybe you can’t print it though.”

“Mr X” is another name given to him, but he calls himself Johnny. Johnny has been in Siem Reap for four years now and has become a definitive feature of the town, part of the Siem Reap experience.

Most days you’ll see him doggedly hauling his cart from one tourist hotspot to another. Once there, he’ll set up his main event, which requires a rickety looking stand, topped with three rusted hoops to which have been attached a few dozen knives at disparate angles. Through this he leaps and rolls onto a dog-eared mattress, also doing some fire eating tricks. All this is done to the sound of some ghastly techno caterwaul segueing at times into the dreaded “Macarena”, and to the cheers of tourists who find him endlessly fascinating.

For those who live here the novelty has worn off – the show, or rather the music, can tend to wear a little thin after a while.

When I ran him to ground for this interview, his portable music machine was exuding a gentle, wafting, Khmer ballad. He’s aware of the complaints about his noisiness, and has toned down the music. But, as he says, he just wants to earn a living, and is proud of his entrepreneurialism.

“Other people just beg,” he says, “I use my skills.”

Originally from Battambang, Johnny started to learn his craft from the Phare Ponle Selpak’s circus school. Stranger still, this is the boy who actually ran away from the circus.

He felt he could do better on his own and, although leaping through a hoop came from his early acrobatic training, the knives were his very own embellishment. And he’s got the scars to show for it. Great unnatural protuberances are scattered across his arms, interspersed with long, thin, flat scars and what look like cigarette burns. Among them are tattoos dotted across his body.

He has protective Sanskrit script on his hands, arms and back. On his chest, there is a representation of himself, eating a fire stick. “I made them myself, for fun. They aren’t from the military or anything like that,” he says.

Although he hasn’t seen his parents for years and doesn’t know where they are now, he lives with his wife and two children on the road to Chong Kneas. The muscles on his too-thin arms bulge as he pulls on the wisp of a beard on his chin and says, “I don’t want my children to do what I do. It’s too dangerous. I want them to read and learn.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Temple body plans public forum

I'm not sure I'm convinced that a meeting with the APSARA Authority will improve how it treats villagers within the Angkor Park borders. However, it will hopefully be a valuable sounding board to make their rules about building or restoring property within villages near the park area.

Thursday, 26 August 2010 15:03 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap provinceAPSARA Authority officials plan to hold a public forum “as soon as possible”, in order to explain rules concerning the construction of housing by villagers in Siem Reap’s Leang Dai commune.

Chrun Sophal, director of the authority’s communications department, said yesterday that, following an internal meeting, a forum would be held to discuss building restrictions in Leang Dai, which falls within the bounds of the Angkor temple park.

“We will hold the forum after meeting the Siem Reap governor [today],” he said. “We are trying to balance natural resources, the environment and the preservation of culture.”

In a letter dated July 23, opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Ke Sovannarith criticised the Apsara Authority, which maintained the temple park, for preventing the commune’s 1,255 families from building new market stalls, a kindergarten and other facilities.

Contacted yesterday, Ke Sovannarith said that she supported the initiative to hold the forum because villagers were not sure what they were permitted to build. “The problem is not just in Leang Dai, but in other places as well,” she said. “The Apsara Authority should call all affected villagers to listen.”

In March, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights organised a similar public forum, at which Apsara officials defended the rules aimed at preserving the Angkor temple park.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Calling it a Season

Just another typical day in Cambodia. Motorbikes can carry just about any quantity and type of product imaginable.

Photo by: Sovan Philong

Friday, 11 June 2010 15:00 Sovan Philong

A man transports fish traps down Street 217 on the last day of May. The annual fishing ban began June 1 and runs until September.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sleuth researches enigmatic Angkor girls

An interesting story about a research with a curious theory about all those Apsaras on the temples.

Michigan State University worked with Davis to devise a mathematical trait
analysis system to be used at Angkor Wat.

Friday, 20 August 2010 15:01 Peter Olszewski

FLORIDA-based researcher, publisher and robot manufacturer Kent Davis is rapidly gaining an international reputation as the sleuth of Siem Reap, a new age detective delving into what he sees as one of the greatest mysteries of ancient Angkor Wat – the 1780 images of anonymous and mostly bare-breasted women depicted in carvings throughout the iconic structure.

Commonly known as apsaras (or, as Davis prefers, devatas), these female images were mostly accorded little significance.

But Davis, a former resident of Siem Reap and a regular visitor to Temple Town, is sure he’s onto something. He’s sure that these women represent something decidedly significant, but he’s not quite sure what.

Read more here...

Youth employment falling

This subject is an area of interest for me. My master's thesis covered this topic, but as this article states, there is a need for more information.
"The government should promote proper training.
They should provide the youth with professional training, and research the
market and what people need to develop the economic sector."

"We still need updated data on national youth

I hope to develop further research on this type and seek out research funding in order to do so.

Friday, 13 August 2010 15:03 Cameron Wells

YOUTH unemployment rates in Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia are expected to rise to as high as 14.8 percent by the end of the year, according to a new report released by the International Labour Organisation.

The report, released today, states that global unemployment among people aged 15-24 is expected to reach 13.1 percent by the end of the year. It stood at 13 percent at the end of 2009, when 81 million young people were out of work, a rise of 7.8 million since 2007.

The report also says that young people working in low-paid sectors of Cambodian industry were finding it hard to break back into the sector after losing their jobs because of the global financial downturn.

“If a worker in a low-income country loses a job in the formal sector – such as the garment worker in Cambodia – there is little chance of finding new work in the same sector as it continues to shrink,” the report reads.

Tun Sophorn, national coordinator at the ILO, said that the Kingdom’s unemployment rate may be higher than the figure mentioned in the report.“We still need updated data on national youth unemployment,” he said. “The seasonal farmers, they sometimes work for three months and are unemployed for the rest of the year. But that is counted as employment.”

He said the lack of jobs for Cambodian youths can largely be contributed to a struggling economy and more youths entering a market that cannot sustain employment growth.

“Acknowledging the economic crisis last year, there were a lot of job losses and a lot of problems with young people entering the markets,” he said. “Hundreds of young people enter the workforce every day. They are trying to get good and decent jobs, but they still face challenges.”

The ILO report follows a Labour Ministry report released Tuesday, which stated that youth unemployment levels were “becoming critical” and pointed to foreign labour markets as “a cornerstone for alleviation of unemployment, income enhancement and poverty reduction”.

The Labour Ministry report also stated that economic growth and employment in Cambodia had become “narrowly concentrated in the agricultural, garment, construction and tourism sectors”.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said youths continually look to overseas employment because of a lack of proper training and opportunities in Cambodia.

“Every year around 200,000 to 300,000 youths go abroad to look for jobs,” he said. “The government should promote proper training. They should provide the youth with professional training, and research the market and what people need to develop the economic sector.”

He said that foreign investment was the key to developing sustainable employment for youth workers in Cambodia. “Competition in Cambodia is very bad; gas [petrol] and electricity rates in Cambodia are the highest in Asia,” he said.

“There needs to be a good environment for investors. Good investors from developed countries don’t want to invest in Cambodia [because] of government bureaucracy and corruption.”He said: “We need to reform our economic policies.”

Officials from the Ministry of Labour could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tonle Sap lake: Officials talk sustainable tourism

Thursday, 19 August 2010 15:02 Rann Reuy

Tonle Sap lakeTourism officials in Siem Reap province have announced that they intend to establish a “learning laboratory for sustainability” as well as a “master plan for sustainable tourism development” as part of efforts to promote responsible tourism around the Tonle Sap lake.
Speaking during a three-day workshop in Siem Reap on Tuesday, Tourism Minister Thong Khong said that the aim of both initiatives would be to ensure that as tourism develops around the Tonle Sap lake, South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake, it would contribute to the alleviation of poverty in local communities and assist in the conservation of the area’s bounty of natural resources.
Thok Sokhom, director of the International Cooperation and ASEAN Department at the Tourism Ministry, said officials hoped to finalise the master plan by November this year. “We will look to establish the learning lab in Siem Reap,” he added.
The three-day workshop is scheduled to finish today.