In 2011 Cambodia saw its worst floods in 10 years. More than 247 people died (Prey Veng province saw the highest death toll with 52 dead) and 1.64 million people were affected through out the country by the flooding. Seven months later people are still struggling to recover.
In October 2011, UNICEF commissioned me to document the affects of the flooding in Prey Veng province, it made me aware of the vast devastation and hardship endured in the region. Later that month I returned to the area independently to continue documenting the situation. In May and June 2012 revisiting two different villages in Prey Veng I met up with some of the families affected by the 2011 floods. The families who we visited had lost their homes or harvest during the floods and were forced to take out loans from banks and private microfinance institutions to be able to get back on their feet. Borrowing money against their land, some are still hopeful that they can repay their debt, while others like Samern can only watch while the microfinance institution comes to claim her land. Samern, who lives in Dam Racha, lost her harvest last year because the rains and floods came early. Forced to harvest before the crop came to seed she was left with nothing. The floods and storms destroyed her home. She is now living with her neighbours. Hopeful that this year the family could plant again Samern got a loan in order to purchase gasoline, fertilizers and pesticides. Due to the high cost of planting a new crop and the low revenue generated from the sale of the rice, Samern was forced to default on her loan and in early June lost part of her land. Dam Racha did not receive any aid from donors, organizations or the government institutions.
In other parts of Prey Veng, aid was donated through the Cambodian Red Cross. Affected villagers received 20 kg of rice, a water filter, 2 kg of fermented fish, instant noodles and 10 dollars per family; it was just not enough to recover. Boang and Sroarm two women who had lost their houses both took out loans to rebuild their homes. Slowly repaying their debt Boang has to rent out her land this year to other farmers so she can repay the bank. Sroarm hopes her little grocery store will earn enough in order not to lose the land on which her house has been (re)built.
In both areas of Prey Veng, villagers already in debt and worried about their future, are expecting that this year will see more flooding, as experts predict that due to climate change flooding will be more frequent and severe in coming years.
A nice moment on the bus back to Phnom Penh from the north east of Cambodia.
Borei Keila residents evicted on Jan. 03, 2012 from their homes in Phnom Penh had been relocated to Srah Po relocation site some 50 km from the capital, a patch of bare land with no facilities or shelter. In the months since the violent eviction some have been able to rebuild homes on land allocated to them, others who did not have land titles when living in Borei Keila still live under tarpaulins.
Five months later, evicted residents had a bus organized by Touch Khorn, village leader, and Keo Sakal former Borei Keila spokeswoman and CPP ruling party member, so they could vote in the local elections.The scheduled 6.30 am departure was slightly delayed as more people were eager to vote than could fit on the bus. Though spirits remained high as another bus was called in to transport the remaining people, residents were happy to get a lift into town.
Arriving in Phnom Penh, passengers rushed to the different voting stations near their old community. Reluctant to say who they would vote for, the villagers still living under tarpaulins were expecting the ruling CPP party would come through on their promise of land once the elections over.
After everybody had voted, free meals were hand out by the organizers and villagers waited to return to their village.
Also see Phnom Penh Post article: Borei Keila evictees will be given a lift back to vote
The Phnom Penh Post slide show of election images: Commune elections photography
and The Phnom Penh Post: CPP still rules Boeung Kak, Borei Keila
Back in October & November 2011, I photographed a series of portraits for Handicap International’s campaign and exhibition during the 11MSP conference (ELEVENTH MEETING OF THE STATES PARTIES TO THE AP MINE BAN CONVENTION) that took place on the 28th of Nov. 2011.
Here are some of the images from the Exhibition:
The series got the attention of Femme Actuelle who commissioned me in late April for a new series of portraits on women land mine victims in Cambodia. The article will be published in July.