A reflection on Cambodia – Maria Montello

maria montelloCambodia is a country with one of the highest economic growth rates in the world. But in a country plagued by corruption, such growth does not mean a more manageable standard of living. Rather, it means a growing divide between the haves and have-nots.

Pedaling though the streets of Phnom Penh, I pass women carrying baskets of produce on their heads to earn $30 a month as I dodge luxury cars whose owners paid $100,000 for their prize. Complicit in this are other nations, near and far, who pull on ends of the supply-demand chain. Entrepreneurs with eyes on Cambodia’s resources build roads sufficient to haul out anything above and below the surface that is of value—trees and rice,
gold and copper, power from her rivers and oil from below her waters, cheap factory work from her daughters and sweat labor from her sons.

We think we need products so we need the resources—materials, power, people—to make them. This has dire consequences for the Cambodian people and their land. Maryknoll works with those who live in the path of development projects and are forced to relocate. Thanks to deforestation, there is hardly a cool season and flood waters rise every year, threatening harvests and livelihoods. Families are forced to sell their land—and their daughters. “Do we see the connection between our demand for products and the ramifications for nations like Cambodia?”

– MARIA MONTELLO, Maryknoll Lay Missioner