12 February – Just another dead Cambodian
A body of a Cambodian man was found in the undergrowth just off the main road in Klong Prao a few days ago. It had been there a while and was only discovered when someone went to take a look to see what was causing the odour that was drifting across the road. Two theories as to how he got there 1) Someone dumped the body. 2) The deceased was busy admiring the natural beauty of Koh Chang’s flora and fauna when his heart gave out – simply due to the shock of being in a place as wondrous and perfect as Koh Chang.
Local police appear to be going with the second theory as a dead Cambodian doesn’t affect tourist figures one way or the other and the paperwork involved in murder case is a real bitch.
(If it seems odd to you that there are the words ‘BURN OUT’ written on a rescue vehicle/makeshift ambulance, you probably aren’t living in Thailand.)
It’s only a couple of months until Thai New Year and if you are looking of a way to spend Songkran that doesn’t involve being soaked by beered up Eastern Europeans on White Sand beach, the Annual Songkran Flotilla, organised by Gulf Charters, might be for you. Last year 17 yachts and 88 crew took part in the 4 day cruise around the islands south of Koh Chang.
This year the event runs from 10-15 April and promises to be bigger and better than ever. Anyone with an interest in sailing, from novices, to those wishing to hone their skills, to hoary old seadogs are welcome to participate. Find more details on the Gulf Charters Thailand website. Last year’s flotilla was featured in ‘SEA Yachting’, South East Asia’s most read sailing magazine. A report of 2008’s event, in PDF format, can be downloaded here.
One of the photos above is of an ex-Koh Chang expat resident. The other is of the member of staff from a luxury hotel. One is carrying a real gun, as the photo was taken in Afghanistan last month. The other is carrying a BB Gun, as the photo was taken at the BB Gun battle field on Koh Chang last week. But which is which?
From a story in the Bangkok Post this week: A successful Koh Chang businessman charged with illegally running a private airport on the island turned himself in to police to fight the charges on Saturday night.
This story concerns the ultralight airstrip in Klong Prao and mentions that the owner Mr Pisut Ratanawong, a.k.a. Sia Toy, also owns the largest shrimp farm on Koh Chang. But what the journalist missed was that way back in 2005 the same newspaper carried a report on the shrimp farm and how it was illegally built in what was a mangrove swamp. Quote from a National Park official at the time: ”The land department surprised us by granting 12 title deeds to the farm owner. This brought our investigation to an abrupt end. I wonder how those title deeds could be issued in a mangrove area.” The other thing the shrimp farm and the airstrip have in common is the actual owner of both is reportedly CP Company, one of Thailand’s largest conglomerates.
For years foreigners on Koh Chang have been bemoaning the lack of a decent school for their children to go to. The schools on the island don’t cater for kids born abroad or not having at least one Thai parent. Therefore, migrant workers had little choice but to educate their kids at home. However, as they were often working all day this meant letting their kids play in the dirt outside the family home for hours on end. The children may learn to differentiate between the types of bugs that inhabit the area but, other than that, probably learn little else of use.
Realising the plight of these kids, a Dutch couple, Ben & Kriszti, obtained sponsorship to finance the first private school on Koh Chang through their program ‘Proudly Open Minded / Study Buddies’, which has also seen them set up similar schools elsewhere in the world. The principal sponsors of the Koh Chang school are Sharon & Steve Bakker and their company BAS Group based in Amsterdam.
However, before you rush to enrol your little darling in the island’s newest centre of excellence, bear in mind you have to be Cambodian to qualify.
The school has just opened and is located in what’s basically a slum area of Koh Chang, hidden away from the main road and out of sight of tourists who are relaxing in their 5 star beach resorts only a couple of kilometres away. But this community of corrugated iron shacks and is where an estimated 2,000 Cambodian workers and their families live.
As most of the workers don’t have any legal papers their kids can’t go to a Thai school and will stay at home for 12-14 hours a day whilst their parents are working for wages that are far lower than any Thai workers receive. ‘Proudly Open Minded/Study Buddies’ provides these children with a school they can attend for free. They have provided:
- A school building for over 50 children, as a start
- Electricity, water, toilet and all basic facilities
- A teacher for children and parents
- Basic Thai & English language and general education classes
- Classroom equipment such as chairs, desks, books and pencils
- A playground
- A Vegetable garden
- And a safe place for the kids to stay after school
A free lunch for the kids is also provided, thanks to additional contributions from Brian and the staff at Evolution Tour, Koh Chang. Also well deserving of a mention is Khun ‘Aun’, who also knew Ben & Kriszti from their first visits to Koh Chang several years ago and who oversaw the construction of the school.
If you’d like to donate any school supplies, or contribute financially, please contact Ben & Kriszti through their site – ‘Proudly open Minded / Study Buddies’ or if you are on Koh Chang, I’m sure Brian can let you know what else is needed.