#11 Cambodia – CMAC dogs + machines

Wednesday 4th July 2012:

06:00am – alarm goes off!

06:30am – meet my driver down in the hotel lobby and drive off for breakfast (with all of the kit I need, including tripod). Breakfast was another concoction of banana milkshake and donut… mmm.

07:30am – CMAC HQ (Battambang) to meet up with Cham Sambah to go off into the field for the day. The drive took about an hour over some VERY rough terrain – I must say I have never felt quite so travel sick as I did on this journey through the dense ‘jungle’, but luckily the CMAC vehicles can take it!!

We arrived at Russei village, to see a meeting taking place between the village people, the Governor of Battambang and members of the government who had been sent to the village to ‘redistribute’ the land. The meeting was over land disputes, and CMAC was there to act as a voice for the people (as they do not work for the government, or any private firms, but for the people themselves). My canon camera started flashing red battery – nightmare as this is the camera I like to use for all of the ‘action shots’ (but this was my fault for not checking it before I left, and I just had to make do with JVC and flipcam).

Also in the village was an English girl called Gaby, who was doing her PhD on the social effects of landmines on communities, and had been living in the village for nearly 3 months. She was lovely and very passionate about the effect of landmines and the cultural need for land. Something like 85% of the Cambodian population earn their money from subsidence farming, and this requires land. If there are landmines on the land, then it cannot be farmed, and so it cannot be used by the people. I went to speak to a man in the village who had lost his leg due to a landmine in the field, and spoke about the importance of CMAC in helping this situation.

Back in the car now and drove on to see some of the other CMAC operations in the local area. Heavy machinery was being used to build, community ponds (to provide water for agriculture and for drinking/ washing in the villages), roads and schools.

Stop for lunch on the side of the road – loving the local food! I had some ‘banana cakes’ (aka deep fried banana puree) as a little starter, prepared for me by a young girl no older than 7 (Sambah insisted I take 2, but knowing that lunch was coming I could only manage half of one for now). I then sat down in the local road side restaurant surrounded by working men (no women to be seen) for a lunch of sticky rice, beef and long beans, fried egg, fried pork and chilies.

On the road again – this time to visit the dog teams. I was really looking forward to this, and the dog handlers were obviously very fond of their dogs. The operations actually go on from 7am – 12pm (don’t really work after noon as the heat is too great), but luckily when we arrived at 12:45pm the director was happy to give me a demonstration and even showed me some mine demolition (blowing up exposed mines with TNT).

Final stop – demining machinery. 100% safe and covers a lot of ground in one day. This team was all men, but they were lovely and happy to show me round. I forgot to say that at each of these stops I was given my briefing before hand (which was then translated for me by Sambah) and then signed in and out – very official.

Great day – I’m really enjoying being out and about in the field with CMAC and wish I had done more of this at the beginning. There’s no time to miss home when you’re busy from 7am – 7pm!! Then early bed which I love :p

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