Insects become the favorite Snack for Cambodians

By Sun Narin and Ngo Menghourng

With spicy taste and crunchy, fried crickets and spiders have become the favorite snack for Cambodian people and foreign tourists, though they are not populously edible insects in other countries. Americans might consider crickets as an unusual snack.  Now the markets for the crickets in Cambodia are large.

Recently, Angelina Jolie while in Cambodia for the shooting of her recent Louis Vuitton advertisement, her foster sons Maddox who was born in Cambodia and Pax who was born in Vietnam tried to taste the fried crickets. She admitted that she has zero interest in eating crickets herself. Then she and Brad tried them and compared them to potato chips. However, she eventually had to “ban the cricket-eating” because she was afraid the boys were going to make themselves sick from scarfing too many.

Kampong Thom is the cricket-rich province in Cambodia. People over there set a trap for catching the crickets by using neon light from 7:00 p.m until 5:00 a.m. It costs some 2.5 dollars per kilogram if there are many crickets and it will cost more if there are fewer crickets.

If you go to visit tourist places in Cambodia, you will see the selling of crickets and other insects such as spiders. Along the road north from Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital city) to Angkor Wat (famous ancient temples), a town called Skuon is famous for edible spiders. These spiders look similar to furry North American tarantulas.

You will always see the selling along the road. Mrs Seng Rompeuy (32), who sells crickets and other insects in Phnom Penh, Cambodia said that cricket is now very popular among Cambodian because it is delicious and is available only from June until August, adding that she took the crickets from people in Kampong Thom province.

She said: “I usually buys 200 -300 kilograms per time within the sale of only two three days. I can earn profit around 7.5 dollars per day. I sell it in the price of 0.75 dollar per can.”

She is now creating a place for feeding crickets by herself in the hope that she can earn a living with cricket selling. She told the process of feeding crickets that first she put sand in a small bow to have cricket produce eggs on and 3 days later, it will hatch and they will grow for selling in two months.

Crickets are mixed with the ingredients of salt, sugar, fresh milk, oil and seasoning. It takes me 15 minutes to cook the crickets, according to the seller.

Mr Chea Rithy (20) who likes eating crickets said that fried crickets have good taste and they are cheap.

He says that when he is free from school and he goes for a walk with his friends, he always buys crickets to eat.

He said: “It makes me feel fresh and good when I eat it, especially when I’m bored, I always eat crickets and watch TV. I always spend $2.5 per day to buy crickets.”

A foreigner, Marco Morawec, who experienced eating the crickets wrote on his blog that

it’s the spices, the intense taste of strange food and the whole atmosphere that makes eating out in Asia such a great experience. But it is not just the regular food that’s so exciting. The strange, scary and radical food on offer is even more fascinating.

Despite the fact that they are insects, which are peculiar for eating, Cambodian people tend to like eating them and other insects as well including grasshoppers, aquatic insects, cockroaches, and worms.

























Land Dispute in Cambodia and China’s investments

By 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”.


Kolkata is losing out (Brain Drain)

By Sun Narin

Kolkata-born Bamezai Senha (25) has moved to study and work in Pune for nearly 6 years after he finished high school in Kolkata. He is now working in the field of Information Technology over there.

“Here, after finishing bachelor degree, I am able to find a good job for my expertise and I can make a good earnings,” he says by explaining that “Kolkata lacks job opportunities and the sectors related to my skill are not developed yet; therefore, I decided to work here for my good life.” However, he says that he also faces challenges of living in other cities such as too much spending and knowledge challenges and work competition with other people.

His saying is echoed by a 21-year-old Kolkata-born and educated student, Mr Debajyoti Chatterjee who has just recently won the scholarship to study his Master degree of Communications Engineering in Germany. He said that he wanted to move out from Kolkata because of the education and job opportunities here are not good for him in the future.

“The job opportunities are increasing in all sectors day by day including IT, ITES, Hotel, Aviation, Finance and education. However, the semiconductor industry and industries with a focus on Biotechnology are still underdeveloped. Not much opportunity exists in Kolkata,” he said.

Kolkata city has been suffering of the moving out of thousands of students due to the brain drain of the students to other cities, which are better for them in terms of education, job opportunity and condition and the modernity of the cities. Every year, a lot of high school graduate students from Kolkata move to pursue their higher education in other cities including Bangalor, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune. At the same time, after graduating, they do not want come back to Kolkata to work since they find other cities a good place for them to work and live rather than working in Kolkata city.

Mr Kanjan Sen, secretary of Dhakuria Society for Education and Expression raised two reasons for technical and higher students go out of Kolkata and they don’t return to Kolkata: first, they get used to the atmosphere where they stay for such a crucial period of life and second, they can work in the environment which they get used to.

Education expert says that students want to do all the best for them, adding that “If they want the places good for them, they will go for those places.”

Mr Kanjan explains that this will result in the shortage of human resources in Kolkata and leads to the least development in the city. “Son of the soil may not return to Kolkata” he says. In contrast, it will be overcrowded in other cities and there will be job problem over there. However, he says that there are a lot of challenges for the students over since they have to spend a lot on the accommodation and daily living and they also risk of being from the families in Kolkata.

He continued that the state administration should arrange for further educational facilities and job creation in Kolkata. He added that, there should be “decentralization” like development for other towns and cities in the state and the government should develop adequate educational and business infrastructure and the quality of education has also to be dealt with.

Kolkata shares the same situation in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh capital city. Every year, thousands of provincial high schools students from 24 provinces across the country go to pursue their study in the city and most of them never come back to their hometown provinces to work and live with their families. They want to work in the city for the rest of their life. The consequences are: a huge development gap between the provinces and cities and the negative impacts on the cities are traffic jams, overcrowding, slum areas, unemployment and many other social ills. After graduating in Bachelor degree, a number of students cannot find the jobs since the fewer job opportunities comparing to the huge number of graduate students in the city.

If the opportunities do not exist in the provinces, the educated youth will not return to live and work there.  If you want to develop your province, you need good people, but if good people do not come, how can you possibly develop it? The higher they study, the better the job they hope to attain. How can they find what they are looking for in the countryside, what job can they do? It is the same as Kolkata.

The education expert says that the government should, in order to attract the students back to Kolkata, create better environment, activities, city-city linkage, and balanced development between the Kolkata and other cities so that the educated youth will return to their hometown Kolkata. However, it is quite challenging to ameliorate the issue because it’s the chicken and the egg problem. You do not know which one is the initial problem.

Both Mr Bamezai Senha and Mr Debajyoti Chatterjee suggested that the development in the industrial sector could only take place if the right infrastructure is in place, adding that the airport, roads, highways etc. needs further development and modernization. “Only then can the industry flourish in Kolkata” says Mr Debajyoti Chatterjee.

Mr Debajyoti Chatterjee adds that: “Education system on the other hand needs a major change in Kolkata. The existing infrastructure at all levels (primary, secondary, higher secondary etc.) needs to be revamped and the private as well as the government engineering colleges must allocate more funds for higher education and research.”

However, “I would like to come back and contribute to the development of the higher education sector of India in the future,” he says.

He emphasizes that important thing that: “I wanted people of my country to change first before the state change this is because it’s the people who implement the governmental policies. And proper implementation of our governmental policies can bring an end to many of our problems.”

The official from the department of Education in Kolkata said that the students have choice to choose where they want to study and work. “We do not force them to stay and work here,” he says. However, he adds that the department tries to develop the education sector here in order to satisfy the students to study and then they can work in Kolkata. The department of Planning and Development could not contact for comment on this issue that students want the government to develop the industry sector in Kolkata and improve more infrastructure.

Due to the fact that there are a lot of pressures in other cities besides their hometown city Kolkata including expenditure, work competition, overcrowding and a questionable social environment, some students come back to Kolkata to work for some specific reasons after graduating from those cities.

“I want to live with my family and help develop my born city. If I work at those cities, I won’t have chance to contribute to the development in Kolkata for the next generation,” said Miss Minakshi Majumdar (26).