Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Catching butterflys for Cambodian tourists

The Siem Reap area of Cambodia is a tourist attraction, but it is also one of the poorest regions of the country. People travel to Siem Reap to see the ornate temples, but the money made from the tourism goes to the government and an oil company. Some people make a living by supporting the tourist industry, but few of the tourist's dollars go back into the area.

From the Guardian, writer Ben Doherty visited two boys who work to supply the tourist industry in a unique way.

The butterflies they catch – usually between 60 and 100 between them – they bring to the Butterflies Garden Restaurant in Siem Reap town. They are released inside the restaurant's massive net, to flutter around the diners sitting in the garden café. For their toil, the children are paid about 5,000 riel (80p) each.

"But still, we don't all go to school," Boa says. "Some have to stay home to help the family. But everyone has to help catch butterflies."Despite the annual flood of international tourists to the Angkor temples and the estimated £380m they are predicted to bring this year, Siem Reap remains one of the poorest parts of Cambodia.

More than half of all families live below the poverty line, surviving on less than 80p a day. Four villages in 10 have no access to safe drinking water and 53% of all children are malnourished. Literacy rates are some of the lowest in the country, at 64%, and just 10% of children finish high school. "Siem Reap is one of the poorest provinces of Cambodia, which is a bit weird seeing the number of tourists going there," said Philippe Delanghe, the head of the UN's culture unit in Cambodia. "I only hope that in the future we might be able to help people living around Angkor Wat to improve their livelihoods, which hasn't really been the case until now."

The majority of tourists' money is spent with foreign-owned hotels, tour companies and restaurants. Many package tourists spend a week in Siem Reap without visiting a local business.

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