Cambodia faces poverty despite rising tourism revenue

Preethi Nallu, Press TV, Siem Reap
Cambodia with its rich architecture and scenic terrain is every photographer's delight. Tourists clicking photos of vibrant streets scene is a common occurrence. With its magnificent remains of the khmer empire, Siem Reap has become a popular tourist destination drawing visitors from all over the world. Over 2 million tourists will have visited cambodia in 2010 alone.
Whilst the remnants of cambodia's ancient history leave a lasting impression, it is difficult to overlook the large number of street children in urban centers as well as rural areas. It is estimated that Cambodia with a total population of about 13 million is home to 5 million children under the age of 15 and 60 percent of the population is currently under the age of 18. Consequently, the disproportionate number of minors in the country has become its economic backbone, often bearing the burden of providing for their families at the expense of their education, their development and ultimately their futures.

Despite increased revenue from tourism, Cambodia with an annual GDP of a mere 300 us dollars per capita has one of the worst social indicators in the region. In Siem Reap at least 60 percent of the local population lives below the poverty line.

The most vulnerable victims of lack of social services are of course children.

This six year old wanders the streets every night looking for tourists claiming that his baby brother needs milk. He is joined by thousands of others who are seen roaming the streets during the day and late into the night thereby becoming easy targets for organized begging rings and sex trafficking.

Local organizations such as Anjali house that provide refuge and education to underprivileged children explain that sustainable progress in Cambodia cannot be achieved without investment in education.

Some of the children as young as 15 already have a clear idea of how they could help improve their community.

At The end of the Pol Pot years, during which schools were abolished, only around 300 cambodians with a higher education remained in the country. Cambodia was faced with re- starting an educational system from scratch. Given the proliferation of education and child poverty related NGOs, experts say there is a dire need for the government at national and local levels to collaborate and contribute towards securing the futures of their youth.


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