NOVEMBER 18 – DECEMBER 2, 2013
This past summer with the Gallatin Global Human Rights Fellowship, I studied drinking water as an international human right in the context of Cambodia, a post-genocide nation still rebuilding. Most of my time was spent in Siem Reap city (the base town for exploring the UNESCO Angkor Wat Complex) in Siem Reap province, one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia, with the NGO The Trailblazer Foundation. Cambodia’s government hampers many development initiatives or fosters illegal activity in the name of development, such as land grabbing, illegal commercial fishing, and the random assassination of opposition activists. One of the results of this activity is that it has kept most of Cambodia in poverty; however, as the country moves further away from the Civil War that ended in 1998, more people move from the rural villages to the capital city Phnom Penh. As media infiltrates and globalization continues in Cambodia, lifestyles are changing all over the country. The government might impede clean water access (thereby public health), but families can still access and purchase a DVD player. Although the only way to drill a well is by hand, purchasing duck eggs with friends is joyfully simple. Due to corruption, the rich and poor dichotomy is visible all over Cambodia. How has Cambodian economic and political life affected quotidian social life? I found Cambodia to be filled with people open to new ideas and ready for change.
– Carolyn Balk