Cambodia, Cambodia Corruption, Cambodia farming, Cambodia human rights, Cambodia land grab

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life- Stolen Streets


‘Cambodia is in the grips of a prolonged land grabbing crisis, a slow-motion calamity that has seen over 2.1 million hectares of land – roughly the total area of Wales – transferred mostly from subsistence farmers into the hands of industrial agriculture firms.’

It’s not much of street and nobody wants to be here. And just a few months ago the inhabitants were in a far different place. A far better place. *

For they were farmers, farming fertile land. Not making a lot of money, but getting by. With dignity intact.

That was until the Cambodian Kleptocracy that masquerades as government granted a powerful company the right to farm the land that these folk had been on for years.

Land title is notoriously difficult to prove in Cambodia, particularly if you are poor. So, with a few bribes here and there and the promise, often not kept, of meagre compensation to the affected, the barbarians within the government turn a blind eye to any legal and ethical niceties.

And the already poor lose their land.

Sure they protest and complain.

But in time they go. Police and government soldiers hired by the powerful new ‘owners’ see to that. They intimidate by force and by beating. Or, they simply bulldoze or burn their houses to the ground.

And they end up here. In bamboo shacks.


Street life in rural Cambodia can look idyllic.

There is still life on the street, though, and kids always make the best of it don’t they? But it’s unlikely they will be schooled, here; the nearest school is some distance and their parents couldn’t afford books and uniforms and the transport, anyway.

What chance?

What chance? Almost none…

Some are lucky to find work. A cart laden with cut grass rumbles further down the road.

Some are lucky enough to find work.
A cart laden with cut grass rumbles further down the road.


The grass is not greener for those evicted.


“An estimated 400,000 people have been affected by land disputes since 2003, and government violence against land-grabbing victims is at an all-time high (the most shocking example coming when authorities shot dead a 14-year-old girl during an eviction). This large-scale transfer of land is facilitated by Cambodia’s land concession scheme, in which the government leases – private state land – to companies that agree to farm it. Occupants rarely receive proper compensation, and many receive no compensation at all.

See for a timelapse map showing Cambodia’s great land grab.

* The people on this rural street in Cambodia’s Kein Svay district are evictees. And while I have no detailed knowledge of their individual case(s); the report is very typical of the situation of such people.

More Weekly Photo Challenges: Street life: here


31 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life- Stolen Streets

  1. The more I learn about Cambodia from your posts, the more disturbing it gets. And I think of all the people ranting on Facebook here in the States about “the government is out to get you!” and, really, we have no idea. And these children, what chance indeed?

    • Yes, there is much to be disturbed about. But there is much to like about this country, too.
      I only recently moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress and made a decision to try and make it a little less gloomy. Impossible to ignore some stuff, though.

      Thanks for the response again, Barbara.

      • Your portrait of Cambodia is not all gloom and doom. Facts, Philip, nothing but the facts. I think you give a very well-balanced picture of the country. My reactions to arsenic in the water and displaced farmers is one thing but I definitely see the beauty and charm all around you too!!

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  9. Olga Brajnović says:

    Powerful post. Compelling images. I found your post very informative. I had no idea of the situation you describe. Thank you for informing us.

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  12. pattisj says:

    What beautiful children. Yes, they are resilient. How sad for the people there to live under tyranny. I’m so glad you left a comment on my blog. I look forward to learning of your life in Cambodia.

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  14. The photos of the smiling children juxtaposed with those of the primitive living conditions and adults at work tell a poignant story even without your dialogue – the innocence of childhood versus the reality of these people’s lives. Superb photos; haunting and educational story.

  15. Thank you for sharing these poignant photographs. They are emotionally charged and get the viewer to visually and emotionally appreciate the plight of these people.

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