Thursday, May 15, 2008

Learning from past mistakes

I saw a snippet of a doco about Cambodia yesterday. It captured my attention for a number of reasons, not least the fond memories I have of our trip there in Jan 2004.

The doco raised a number of concerns which suggested that maybe the Khmers haven't learnt from the mistakes of the past which saw their huge empire come crashing down in the 12th(?) century and that despite their great intentions history may end up repeating itself.

The story focused on tourism, and the management of the ancient temples of Angkor Wat and surrounds. Construction of hotels seems to be going on without any controls or forethought. Apparently there are over 100 hotels in Siem Reap constructed, or under construction - and most of them look HUGE! I can't remember if the doco said 8,10, or 12 years ago - there was only ONE hotel. (I'm sure there would have been guesthouses/backpackers etc).

There are environmental issues associated with water pollution, illegal logging, lowering of the water table etc. It seems ridiculous that the province of Siem Reap which is the heart of the tourist trade is the poorest province in the nation. The ranking of Cambodia as second only to Myanmmar as the most corrupt nation in Asia is alarming, but perhaps sheds some light on the great inequities in the country.

What happens to these people when the tourists stop coming??...