Monday, 2 March 2009

Opinion: 'Progress' means trash the poor in Cambodia

by ■ Paul Wallis

It’s called progress, anyway. Most crimes have at least some euphemisms. Teams of workmen arrive at a residential location near Phnom Penh. They’re carrying axes. At 6AM they move in and start demolishing the houses. With the people still in them.

The idea? High rises. You know, those obvious essentials to people whose annual income would perhaps buy a week’s rent in the average Western home.

Bulldozers move in, and hit people trying to find their possessions. At least one woman is hospitalized. The residents react, and throw things at the bulldozer. Fire extinguishers are turned on them. A cat is killed in the process, and people wander around what looks like Stalingrad.

The land, as you will have guessed, is prime land. The residents were offered compensation of about $20,000. They said it wouldn’t buy them another place to live, and they knew their land was worth more.

Australia’s SBS current affairs show Dateline got a first hand view of this blatant violation of human rights and property laws.

*** Please note, this is a pretty infuriating, upsetting video.

A moment of farce was achieved by an interview with the Australian ambassador, who was asked if she was embarrassed that was happening practically on the doorstep of the new Australian Embassy. She was diplomatically not embarrassed.

As an Aussie, I, however, was embarrassed. We led a peacekeeping mission in the 90s to try and get Cambodia back into the current part of human history. We, like many other countries including the US, donate a lot of money to support Cambodia.

It turns out that as usual with international aid, we’re supporting the rich, not the majority of the population. Obviously, Cambodia’s poor have no rights, and less future. We’re clearly not supporting human rights, international law, or anything resembling sanity.

Cambodia is a mirror of the truth of all the international aid. That’s progress, folks. If you happen to remember all the visions of global development, pulling the Third World out of poverty, building a better world, this is what happened to it, just about everywhere on Earth.

This is where 50 years of talkfests has got the human race. Four billion people living in the Middle Ages with cell phones. Wars, revolutions, genocides, political and business babble, followed by what is basically oppression in another form. It’s infallible. One collection of corrupt vermin is replaced by another. Aid becomes a matter of protecting people from the following sets of disasters.

All the good intentions seem to be paving others’ roads to hell.

The world needs to start setting standards for international aid. Things have to be achieved, not just said to be achieved. It’s not enough to simply allow another pack of vultures to set up shop in disaster areas. The message has to be, “Do the job right, run the place according to law, or we pull the plug on you.”

My guess would be that we don’t need saints running aid programs. We need cynical bastards who wouldn’t trust their own grandmothers with a baby.

I don’t think you can be simultaneously determined to save the world and equally determined to look under every rock to find out who’s causing what’s wrong with it.

Then maybe we'll see some real progress.

This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The cambodian people needs to be free from the CPP corrupted government.