A close friend of mine is heading to a divorce court in Siem Reap in 30 minutes time. This is a sad time both for him and for his wife and both have used SOBBING emojis in recent correspondence. Both are hurting. They have three sweet children.
How does divorce work in Cambodia? In fact the laws are reasonably progressive, and while divorce-rates have been extremely low in Cambodia the laws provide reasonable protection to both parties who are generally entitled to half the matrimonial property each. In fact this is widely understood following an incident in 2008 when an estranged husband sawed their matrimonial homestead in half and carted it away.
For a detailed discussion on the subject: http://cambodialpj.org/article/legal-and-gender-issues-of-marriage-and-divorce-in-cambodia/
Whether the laws are fair or not, women – especially in poor rural areas – are likely to be disadvantaged simply because they cannot afford the expense of seeking legal advice, and because traditions (which frown on divorce,) still over-ride current law.
However my friends are educated, and I hope they both leave on peaceful, fair terms that protect the children too.
Monasteries have many roles in Cambodian society and while they are centers for spiritual teaching, they also help alleviate families that are struggling – for example poor rural families. A son may live at the monastery and save the family the burden of another mouth to feed.
That’s what Savong did when he was young and it is worthwhile seeing how his story has come full circle. Ke, pictured above shows a keenness to learn English and, at the same time widen his potential prospects.
When I read these stories my own heart goes out to the students. Born into poverty, they face a daunting challenge to break that financial drought.
My name is Ke, 27, a grade 10 student of Rokar Buddhist School, latterly living at Rokar Pagoda. I was born on the 25 of October, 1990, in Roluos village, Roluos commune, Prasat Bakong district, Siem reap province, Cambodia. I have four siblings; my older sister is a fruit seller, selling fruit at Roluos market. I am the third child in my family.
The living standard of my family is hard up at the moment because of low incomes in the family. Every day my parents can earn a little money to sustain the whole family. My older sister always helps my mother to do house work. Every day I study at Buddhist School. After studying at Buddhist school, I spend my time learning English at Savong School Cambodia. I started to learn English at Savong School Cambodia in 2016.
I like English so much so after complete Buddhist school, I want to be an English teacher. I feel so strongly for them because every day they try to work for the whole family. In my spare time, I like reading books and chanting the dharma; I love my parents so much.
Interviewed by: Vann Salas
Chai Chun lives at the Rokar Monastery just 1km away from Savong’s School.
My name is Chun, 26, and I am a grade 9 student of Rokar Buddhist School, staying at Rokar Pagoda currently.
I was born on the 9 of March, 1991 in Donteav village, Roluos commune, Bakong district, Siem Reap province, Cambodia. I have 5 siblings. I am the third child in the family. My older sister has married and she has one child.
My father’s name is Mon Thear, 54, and he is a farmer. My mother is Pheak, 52, a housewife looking after the house and the children. My parents try very hard to earn money for me. My grandparents can earn a little money to support the family but my family is poor because there is too little family income.
Every day I learn at Buddhist school; I really miss my family at times. Besides studying time, I take time to study English at Savong School Cambodia. I like English so much; I want to be an IT teacher. I feel real pity for my parents, supporting and taking care of my siblings.
Sometimes my grandparents call on my parents and me and I also feel sad for them because every day they try so hard to work for the whole family. I like chanting the dharma. I love my parents so much. I want to have a better life in the future.
Thank you Vann Salas for interviewing Chai Chun and translating.
It has been a while since I have written, but I’m still here and still thinking each day of Cambodia.
The other day I received an unsolicited email message from a graduate student in Cambodia who wanted to say than you for having helped him (one way and another through employment and sponsorship,) get his degree. What a wonderful thing to receive that message.
Then 48 hours later I popped into a lunchbar in Ellerslie, Auckland, where I had a chat with the owner, a Cambodian, who knows about my involvement and commitment to Cambodia, and who has been weighing up how she, also, may assist her mother country.
It was a lively conversation as we shared experiences and shared also our dismay at how the burgeoning middle-class of Cambodia is ignoring the welfare of so many fellow citizens. Cambodia has precious little safety net. “But to ignore the poor just isn’t true Buddhism,” my friend said. She is going to be very choosy about who she supports in Cambodia – opting to help people in a specific village in the South. She is worried by corruption, and the tendency by some people to grasp money intended for a whole village, to keep for themselves. The gifts for monasteries are supposed to be distributed to the poor, she explained with a sigh. But that’s people.
But I wonder how many people over the years have been burned by this kind of greed that diverts a stream of goodwill and dollars into the pockets of the greedy. Cambodia doesn’t make itself an easy country to love.
YouTube is a great place to explore the musical cultures of different countries. And the music videos tell a lot about the Zeitgeist of the nation. I remain fascinated at the way Cambodian music continues to balance the urban glam against the romantic version of the rural idyll – a simpler wholesome life for which Cambodia pines.
In its dreams.