There’s been a lot of bad news about Cambodia lately. Tensions between the two opposing political factions have been high. There’s continued talk about land grabs and illegal logging. As usual, there are elements of the press who simply have to look for as much bad news as possible. In a weird way, that was the case in an article I just read today.
While Cambodia’s poverty rate drops, many still struggle to survive was published in Catholic Online. The not-very-positive title made me think the article would start with some statistics showing a slight decline in poverty followed by heart-rending news about poverty in Cambodia. I was half right. Actually, Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped dramatically between 2004 and 2011, down from 52.2% to just 20.5%, according to the World Bank. That’s a huge improvement in anybody’s book, but it’s not likely Sam Rainsy will be quoting it any time soon.
As the media always feels compelled to do, that fantastic news was followed by the bad news. Poverty still exists in Cambodia and in some instances, development is to blame. I don’t know about the airport, but the Australian company that was in charge of the railway line has been taken to task for not offering enough compensation to displaced Cambodians and, last I heard, was being told to offer more, so that news is not necessarily as bad as it sounds.
Anyway, the good news in Cambodia outweighed the bad. A 30% decrease in poverty and a rising middle class are things to celebrate, even if there’s still room for improvement.
Cambodia vs Vietnam
We’ve also been hearing a lot about how Cambodia is a “puppet” of Vietnam. Well, in at least one regard, Cambodia has marched ahead of Vietnam. VietNamnet reports that Cambodia-made car causes shocks to Vietnam’s auto industry. This one caught me by surprise. Apparently, they are successfully building electric cars in Kandal Province. The Heng Company is a Cambodian owned car manufacturer that has unveiled its Angkor EV 2014 electric car.
Built in Heng’s $20 million facility, the Angkor EV 2014 can reach 60 kph and will cost “no more than $10,000 when it is marketed”. It’s pretty cool looking, too, as you can see.
The article went on to say that Vietnam’s auto industry has never been able to get off the ground because they cannot even manufacture simple components such as electric wires in their country.
Hyundai and Ford are also starting to manufacture cars in Cambodia. In fact, government is making every effort to get the country out of its reliance on the garment industry and foreign aid.
In even more good news in Cambodia, Bernama, the official news portal of Malaysia reports that Cambodia’s Trade with ASEAN hit US$4.1 Billion Last Year. That’s up 12% from 2012. While that figure represents imports and exports, Cambodia’s exports to ASEAN countries were up a whopping 51%, to US$482 million.
As I write this, the world is focused on the Ukraine. Some members of the CNRP are calling for a similar uprising in Cambodia. The waters are so muddy in the Ukraine, I don’t know what to think except that things have been going backwards for the average Ukrainian for a long time. They have largely been going forward for the average Cambodian. Violence and/or confrontation deliberately designed to provoke a violent reaction are not called for in Cambodia. There’s too much good news in Cambodia today to let the bad news spoil it.