Arsenic Victims in Cambodia

By Sun Narin

So far, there are thousands of people living in some posh pockets of Kolkata and its northern, eastern and southern suburbs are drinking water that could make them seriously ill and prone to severe long-term health problems. According to the comprehensive “chemical quality analysis” conducted by the state Water Investigation Department, arsenic and iron content well beyond the permissible limits has been detected in groundwater.

Arsenic contaminated water has also existed in Cambodia where there is some 42 per cent of Cambodian living in rural area across the country can have access to clean water while people living in the city and urban area are able to use safe drinking water. Arsenic water in Cambodia can be seen mostly in the well.


Mao Saray, director of the department of Rural Water Supply, said that there are seven provinces among 24 provinces in the country facing the using of arsenic water in which 1607 villages along the river, adding that there were 10,0000 to 150000 people who are using the well with over limited standard arsenic water.

A lot of people in Kandal province are using the arsenic water in the well and hundreds of villagers are affected with the disease and several were dead. In a family whose members are being affected by the arsenic disease, Mrs Khut Ngan Chur (51), with the ulcer on the legs and arms, said that she has been with this disease for along time, but she did not recognize it and did not know what to do. She added that her brother and nephew died of this disease few years ago after they have the spots on the body for a long time and had their legs cut. Mr Vern Vin (17), another her nephew who has the many spots on the body, is also affected by the arsenic water.

He said: “I am always hurting, especially in the hot sun.” The aunt said that: “People here have just known from the health officials, but they just use the water because they don’t have much water.”

Mr Mao Saray said that the medical people have not identified the disease yet, but they suspect of the arsenic water cancer disease. Cambodian people have been using arsenic water for more than ten years without realizing it.

Arsenic substance in water was found in Cambodia 2001. Arsenic is the chemical substance stemming from nature. It is in the water, land, air, rock, plant and animals. When people absorb it from 3 to 10 years, they can get the diseases including thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, numbness in hands and feet, blindness and it can lead to other cancers.

Mrs Chhai Ly Sokha, the villager said that has two brothers dead of arsenic. Nowadays, she and other 3 members of her family are being with arsenic disease.

She said: “I feel that I regret of drinking that water at that time because it is said that the ground water is sanitary and then I just drink it, but now it is over because I have that disease already.” Now, Chhai Ly Sokha’s family stopped drinking well water and use river water instead.

The Ministry of health in cooperation with the UNICEF and other relevant organizations are helping people with the clean drinking water by using tap water, rain tub and water filters. Mr Mao Saray said that, the ministry of Rural Development is planning to provide clean water to people at least 50 percent in 2015 and 100 percent in 2025.

According to the report from the scientists, there around 100 million people in Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan and Vietnam are using arsenic water and causing thousands of people dead every year.


Land Dispute in Cambodia and China’s investments

Sun Narin

Land dispute has become a heat issue in the world’s developing countries. As the example, land conflict in India has become contentious for the past five years, impinging on a vast part of the country~ West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai and Gujarat. Several people have died in the protests against land acquisition and inadequate compensation, notably in Noida in March-April. Last September, the Allahabad High Court gave a landmark judgment against forced eviction of farmers.

This does not happen only in India, but also in the provinces across a developing Cambodia for a long time, which experienced the mass killings of more than 1.7 million during the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979).

Land dispute is a persistent issue in Cambodia, causing hundreds of thousands of people being affected and evicted. The protesters have been facing with beating, arresting and imprisoning. Land-grabbed victims have never received any solution from the government, which results in protests from people to ask for resolution. A lot of local high-ranking officials, tycoons and foreign investors, especially from China, have been investing in the huge amount of economic land provided by the government.

“I asked for solution from all level of authorities many times, but they have not taken any actions,” said Mr Un Sony (34), a Cambodian Battambang provincial villager whose land has been grabbed since 2006. He added that: “All the local authorities conspire with grabbers and the government is not responsible and responsive to people.”

Since Cambodia’s government had policy of providing economic forests and land concession to investors to develop the area, land dispute has increased rapidly from year to year.

According to the NGO Forum on Cambodia’s report, 236-land dispute cases occurred in 2009 and 81 cases happened in the five months early 2010. Hundreds of cases are in court’s hand and now the people have still facing the problem.

Mr Chan Soveth, Adhoc’s human rights program officer in Cambodia, said: “Land dispute is pertaining to powerful and political people and the court is also under the pressure of government,” adding that local authorities were not provided with enough power to deal with the dispute.

Due to the fact that the cases have not been solved and no fair solution were given by the local authority, the victims decided to protest in Phnom Penh for government’s help, especially premier Hun Sen.

“It is not easy to solve land dispute since it is large-scale. We have to spend much time studying the problem behind,” said Mrs Nonn Pheany, spokesman of the Land Ministry. She said that the victims and grabbers did not understand each other and respect law and government has pity on people, though they settle on state land.  “Government used compromising and understanding policy to solve land dispute. Land dispute can be solved, but it cannot if politics is behind,” she added.

A lot of residents were forcibly evicted and relocated to the outskirts of the city without suitable compensation such as people from Sambok Chab and Dey Krahorm where existed land dispute, facing the difficulties.

Land dispute is a considering problem facing the government since a lot of people are affected. Local Human Rights (LICADHO) report for May 2009 says that more than a quarter of a million people have been affected by land-grabbing and forced evictions since 2003.

Until April 2010, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) requests to the Royal government of Cambodia for contract cancelation of 41 companies with total land area of 379,034 ha. At the present, there have been 85 contracted and validated companies with total land area of 956,690 ha located in 16 provinces.

Now China has become the largest investors on land and the Cambodia’s government always provides a lot of land for Chinese companies to develop. According to the official China News Agency, China has become one of the biggest investors in Cambodia, with 3,016 Chinese companies making cumulative investments of US$1.58 billion to the end of 2007. Cambodia’s people are now aware that every land conflict is related to China.

As the example, the Cambodian government granted a Mondulkiri forest concession of 200,000 hectares – 20 times the legal limit – acquired secretly by Pheapimex, an ethnic-Chinese owned Cambodian conglomerate with close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen. Pheapimex formed a joint venture with China’s Wuzhishan plantation firm to exploit the region, displacing indigenous minority people who rely on the forests for their traditional livelihoods. After that, the government continued providing the 315,028-hectare to Pheapimex , which spans Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces. Hundreds of thousands of people stand to lose land, homes and important sources of income if the company proceeds with these plantations.

Pheapimex Group and other investment companies have been linked to a number of controversial logging and plantation projects across the country, according to the watchdog Global Witness.

The Boeung Kak development, owned by Sukako Inc which gained a 99-year lease of the land in the lakeside area covering 126.85 hectares to transfer the lakeside into a modern satellite city, has been the most often cited negative example of Chinese investment in Cambodia since 2006. All NGO reports and Western news articles talk about how Boeung Kak Lake has been given to a secretive Chinese company to develop, which has started to move residents out but then stalled amidst their opposition.

Son Chhay, an opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, said that China’s investors use economic promises to gain political clout in Cambodia, and never consider the adverse impacts of their investments on the developing country. He said that, in reality, Chinese

investments damage the Kingdom’s environment and fail to generate sustainable employment for the country’s labour force.

“Chinese investors are aggressive businesspeople who capitalise on Cambodia,” he said. “They are given special rights by the government”, which “invariably agrees with what [Chinese businesses] want”.

In October 2004, Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, announced that his government’s policies aimed at “improved access to land and effective use of this resource crucial for promoting economic growth, generating employment, ensuring social equity and fairness, and strengthening effectiveness in the reforms, thus helping to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development”. He added: “investments must be sound and have the participation of the local people in those communities”.

Before granting any land concessions in any location, Cambodia’s government must go to that area and investigate it, to make sure it is not affecting the land of the people, to make sure it is not affecting the environment”.


Student from Kolkata won the TOEFL scholarship program

By Sun Narin

A 21-year-old student from a sur-urban town Barrackpore, Kolkata, Mr Debajyoti Chatterjee has won the 2011 TOEFL Scholarship Program Awards to study in Germany with the award of 5000 dollars for his bachelor degree. He is one of the nine high-performing winners from Chennai, Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Coimbatore who won award to study in the United States, France, Canada, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

“It gave him a sense of joy and relief. Joy because I had won a prestigious award and relief because it removed the financial hurdles that were present before me to take up my studies in Germany,” says Mr Debajyoti.

Mr Debajyoti has just completed his Bachelor degree in technology in Electronics and Communications engineering from the Bengal Institute of Technology, Kolkata. Simultaneously, he also learnt the German language at the Goethe Institute in Kolkata and completed the C1 level at the Goethe Institute Berlin last year.

He said: “This is the first time I took the TOEFL test and applied for the ETS Scholarship. I decided to apply for this scholarship because it is recognition of my good results in the TOEFL.” “I did not find the test to be difficult but it required long hours of concentration. Definitely, I was very well prepared for the test,” he adds.

The 2011 TOEFL Scholarship Program, awarding US$60,000 in scholarship funding for undergraduate or graduate study in 2011, was extremely competitive. More than 650 applications were received for consideration this year, doubling the number of applications received for last year’s program, according to the program statement.

Mr Debajyoti reveals some tips to win the TOEFL scholarship that the exam sitters first have to know the type of questions that are being asked on the TOEFL Test and he would suggest the BARRON’s TOEFL book. Moreover, he adds that one should have the ability to write and speak grammatically correct English and recommends students to read newspaper, journals and other books, which may help in improving the reading skills that is also important for the TOEFL. “Be relaxed and enjoy yourself through the TOEFL test” he says.

Three US$10,000 scholarships were presented: one scholarship each for study in the U.K., U.S. and Canada. Six US$5,000 scholarships were also presented: one scholarship each for study in the U.K., U.S., and Canada, and three scholarships for any other location. Funding for the 2011 TOEFL Scholarship Program represents an increase of US$10,000 from last year’s program.

Mr Debajyoti will spend two years studying Communications Engineering at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany for his master degree.

“I wish to go there because of the wonderful infrastructure for research that is present in my field of interest at the University. There are multiple choices of work that will be available after I complete my masters. My decision will depend upon the opportunities that I get after my Masters.