Angkor Wat lies 5.5 km north of the modern town of Siem Reap, and a short distance south and slightly east of the previous capital, which was centred at Baphuon. It is in an area of Cambodia where there is an important group of ancient structures. It is the southernmost of Angkor’s main sites.
Angkor Wat has become a major tourist destination. In 2004 and 2005, government figures suggest that, respectively, 561,000 and 677,000 foreign visitors arrived in Siem Reap province, approximately 50% of all foreign tourists in Cambodia for both years. The site has been managed by the private SOKIMEX group since 1990, which rented it from the Cambodian government. The influx of tourists has so far caused relatively little damage, other than some grafitti; ropes and wooden steps have been introduced to protect the bas-reliefs and floors, respectively. Tourism has also provided some additional funds for maintenance—as of 2000 approximately 28% of ticket revenues across the whole Angkor site was spent on the temples—although most work is carried out by foreign government-sponsored teams rather than by the Cambodian authorities.
As side tour to Angkor Wat, tourists should be taken to see this community.
One day in Cambodia a boy told me he had been living for many years in the rubbish dumps. I tried hard to get permission to visit them but I didn’t, so I made the decision to go without permission. What I saw there was from another world.
In total there are about 500 people working there, most of whom also live, sleep, eat and drink there. After working for several months in the dumps I even saw a child birth.
With 34 per cent of the total population living on less than $1 a day, those in the dumps, at least they can find food and shelter. They earn about 35 cents per day for 14 hours’ work.
They are nomads. They move from dump to dump when the one they’re at is full, normally every four years or so. Their whole life they are living in the dumps; they just move from one to another.
They are normal people. Most of the little children are aged between three and 15 and they are always smiling – that was what shocked me most.
The smell is so strong that it gets into your throat. You can taste the smell. Your eyes become full of tears. It is awful, but with time you get used to it.
One day a little boy carrying a bag of blood asked me why the people in my country never smile. I didn’t know what to answer. While he looked at the blood he was carrying as a treasure to eat, he explained to me ‘I smile all the time, I’m lucky. Today I’m going to eat this and tomorrow I will see the sun again’.
They seem immune from the rubbish. Normal sickness is rare; more common is diarrhoea and stomach illness or colds. Something very common there is to suffer cuts and bruises, as most of the children are barefoot in the middle of tonnes of rubbish.
Basically the dump is their shopping centre. Everything that they need to survive comes from the dump. They always tell me that they are lucky if they find bananas because they are clean under the skin.
The rubbish is coming from Siem Reap, the main tourist city in Cambodia, where there are many hotels including a few that have rooms for over $1,500 a night. It is a city of almost 150,000 people.
They deserve to be known, they deserved to have a voice, and I think their smiles are the best way they can show themselves. They are happy just because tomorrow they will see the sun.
I have to be honest, I didn’t find that place sad. I was happy every time that I was with the people living there.
The sadness and the tears come after, when you are in your hotel room surrounded by material things and you don’t see the smiles and the faces of the people living there come to your memory – that is when the sadness invades you.
I call Cambodia the Forgotten World. With photography we cannot change the world, but we can change minds and touch hearts. That is the reason why I’m a photographer … to give a voice to those in silence.
Omar Havana [Source: ABC News Online]