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Livelihood Strategies of Muslim Cham after Pol Pot Regime:

A Case Study in Chong Kneas, Siem Reap, Cambodia.


CKS Fellow, Summer Program 2008

This paper aims at exploring livelihood strategies of Muslim Cham in a floating village, Chong Kneas,
Siem Reap, right after the fall of the Pol Pot regime in 1979 up to 1990s.The researcher was inspired to
conduct this project because of the view that Cambodians in general and Muslim Cham in particular
started their new life with “empty-hands.” Economic policy of the state was discussed in the paper in
order to reflect and check with the real practice of Muslim Cham in the village level. Findings show
that social capital is the main strategy used by Muslim Cham for survival and continuation of their

Key words: Muslim Cham, livelihood strategies, social capital.


About 10 to 15 Kilometers south of Siem Reap town, situated a floating community

where nearly all year round visitors to the community can immediately recognize and smell
fish which is being processed and hear the noise coming from a lot of machine boats.
Meanwhile, we can see retailers sitting on their motorbikes and waiting for fish and other
water products brought by the fishermen. In the Tonlesap Lake, they go fishing by using
machine boats, Giant Wedge Cone Trap (leay thom), Filter Trap made of Mosquito Netting
(Sap Sbai Mong), and Surrounding or Seine Nets (Sien) and many other forms of modern
fishing gears. However, going back to the latest 1970s and the early 1980s, a period of Year-
Zero-Cambodia, such high-technology machines and fishing tools were very rare in the area.

Cambodia, then, whose official name was People Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), was
particularly suffering from severe problems (Chandler D. , 2007, p. 227). Apart from great
difficulties in “fighting while negotiating” with coalition government in exile of three
resistant groups led by Sihanouk, Son Sann and Pol Pot (PRK, 1989, p. 4), the new regime
had even harder time in re-building the country. Leadership from the regime, whose opinions
shared by many of Cambodian people, have often described that hard moment by saying that
they had re-built the country with “empty-hands.” (PRK, 1989). How could they survive with
“empty-hands”? What else could they do to earn a living? This paper aims at exploring the
livelihood strategies of Muslim Cham who have been living in Chong Kneas, Siem Reap after
1979 up to the 1990s.

In so doing, a number of research methods were employed. While focus group

discussion provided general information about the community, in-depth interview make

available the details of some particular cases. The former made possible the selection of key
informants in the latter. Six cases of household history were in-depth investigated.


a. Community Profile

Chong Kneas is a fishing community located in the uttermost North of the Tonlesap
Lake. The numbers of population were 1,084 households consisting of 5,857 people in 2006
(DoP, 2006) and 1,193 households consisting of 6,415 people in 2007 (ADB, 2007). They
live in floating houses which need to be moved in accordance with the fall and rise of the

We can see that there is a significant increase of the population owing to recent
development in the area. According to Push-in theory of migration, people would move to a
place where they perceive as a better place (Bontemps, Arna, and Jack Conroy, 1997)
(Maltoni, 2006). In other words, they would go where they can find a better jobs. Chong
Kneas’s geographical location which is about 10 to 15 kilometers to the south of Siem Reap, a
major tourist destination in Cambodia, makes possible a short trip for tourists to the
community. For instance, tourists may want to take short trips on the lake from Chong Kneas
to visit the flooded forest, the wetlands, the floating villages and the wildlife sanctuary around
the lake. As an illustration, in 2002 Chong Kneas was visited by 56,480 tourists (Transport,
2004, p. 10).

Similarly, its location as a harbor can make more job opportunities for stakeholders.
From the harbor of Chong Kneas, fish which is either caught or raised in the lake was
exported to Phnom Penh and other destinations whereas both local people and foreign
passengers can travel by waterway. Therefore, people from other parts of Cambodia would, of
course, look for a better opportunity and get involved in tourism and fish industry there for
their livelihood’s improvement.

Chong Kneas is an ethnicity heterogeneous community. Out of 1,193 households, 818

is Khmer, 345 is Vietnamese and 30 is Cham (ADB, 2007, p. 2). Generally, most households
live house boats or in makeshift houses made of natural materials gathered from the nearby
forest. At the same time, some families live in substantial fixed houses along the high road
from Phnom Kroam to the shore of the lake. A report published by the Ministry of Public
Work and Transport, assisted by the ADB in 2004 could well describe the situation in Chong

“Most members of the community are poor and live in unhealthy surroundings
with limited access to education, health and other social facilities. However the
community also has some quite wealthy fish merchants and commercial
fishermen.” (Transport, 2004, p. 4)

This extract suggests that while few families are quite wealthy, the rest is not.
However, it did not tell any specific status of one particular ethnic group, especially the
Muslim Cham. According to a report published by ADB in 2004, the minority Cham, on
average, the 15% poorest of their communities earn only 200 Riel to 1,000 Riel per household
per day which is ten times less than that of the Vietnamese counterpart, 1,000 Riel - 2,000
Riel. The trend is similar for other three categories: the poor (40%), the medium (25%) and
the richest (15%) (See Figure 1). Different livelihood strategies must have produced different
income. What makes Cham community come to this situation? What did they do as a
livelihood strategy after the fall of Pol Pot?

Figure 1: Differences in Socio-economic across the three ethnicities in Chong Kneas, 2004

Income per day per household

No Ethnicities
Poorest (15%) Poor (40%) Medium (25%) Richest (15%)
1 Vietnamese 1,000 - 2,000 2,000 - 5,000 20,000 - 50,000 100,000 - 500,000
2 Khmer 200 - 1,000 1,000 - 5,000 10,000 - 100,000 100,000 - 500,000
3 Cham 200 - 1,000 1,000 - 5,000 10,000 - 100,000 100,000 - 500,000

Source: ADB, 2004

b. Various Livelihood Strategies through Family History

After the fall of Pol Pot, Cham people as well as their Khmer counterpart returned
hometown. However, many Cham, for several reasons, decided to live in nearby communities,
such as Chong Kneas. Not different from other villages in the country, Chong Kneas was an
empty community consisting of nearly 600 households (Man, 2008). But why did it become a
destination for quite a lot of survivors? One of the most important reasons is that Chong
Kneas was at that time a place full of fish.

Being asked what he did to earn a living after the DK, Les Mat, 58, quickly replied
that “I do not want to talk much about the absolute regime of three years, eight months and
twenty days.” He went on by stressing what he called “empty-hand livelihood”:

“The Khmer Rouge destroyed nearly everything, but left nothing. Many of my Cham
relatives who survived, came to Chong Kneas hoping that we could live by catching
fish. We had no any modern tools for fishing beside a small nets (Mong), fishing lines
(Santouch) and traps (Lob). We were not lucky at that time because we did not get any
boats for fishing. Conversely, other villagers who were in the village or arrived there
first could claim old boats that the Khmer Rouge did not take away or burn.” (Mat, 2008)

It is obvious, from the extract, that fishing is one of the most effective and popular
strategies Cham people used to earn their livings right after the destruction of Democratic
Kampuchea. They tried to make use of remained materials and tools for earning livings.
Nonetheless, such things were very few, making some Cham people facing a harder

difficulties for their livelihood. In opposite, one Khmer survivor who lived in the same time
informed that “every families got a boat for fishing.” (Man, 2008).

To understand various forms of livelihood the Cham made at that time, a number of
family histories need to be explored. Following is some selective cases from the field.

1- Pou Yeb

Pou Yeb is a Muslim Cham who lives in Chong Kneas with his family on a floating
house. He moves the house quite often each year in accordance with level of water of the lake.
Table A: Family Profile of Yeb
Relation to Marital Spoken
N Name Age Sex Occupation Place
Head of HH Status Languages
Cham/ Chong
1 Yeb 45 Head of HH M  Boat driver
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
2 Saros 42 wife F  Seller
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
3 Yeb Kamri 24 Son M  Boat driver
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
4 Yeb Loh 22 Son M  Boat driver
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
5 Yeb Sary 19 Daughter F  Ice seller
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
6 Yeb Mavy 17 Daughter F  Ice seller
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
7 Yeb Arifine 4 Son M  N/A
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
8 Yeb Arona 4 Daughter F  N/A
Khmer Kneas

His main income now is from his involvement in tourism. While he is a tourist-boat
driver, his wife, Saros, is a seller. She said that:

“I am sewing to make cloth for Japanese tourists who came to the village recently. The
Japanese tourists will buy the cloth for US$ 15. They like this kind of souvenirs.
However, it takes me 10 to 15 days to complete a shirt. I do not think other villagers
would like to do this job since it is not so easy and of course take so much time. I also
make hats, which gives me $5.”

“Besides I am a seller. I mainly sell ice and gasoline. These two items are much
consumed because ice can be used for keeping fish fresh while gasoline for running
the machines. As you may know, now every house has at least a machine boat for
fishing, and transporting goods. In addition, I sell several other products for every day
foods such as sugar, salt, seasoning; and powder and shampoo.” (Personal interview
with Ming Saros, 35, July 26, 2008)

When asked what her husband does, she continued that:


“While I am at home doing this stuff, my husband whose name is Yeb is out in
the lake. The second son of ours is also there. They are tourist-boat drivers. As you
can see here, we have five boats for transporting tourists. They have joined a tour-
operating association. In this association, there are 30 boats; each takes turn to drive
tourists to visit the lake. For example, when the first group of tourist arrives, boat
number one will accompany the group first, then boat number two will go after, and so
on and on. There are also several other associations in the commune.”

“Today they took a smaller one since there are not so many tourists. For each turn,
they get about US$ 10 and sometimes US$ 15 if the tourists need to go far into the
Tonlesap Lake or to Kampong Preah, another floating village located at the other side
of the lake in Battambang. However, there are also some lucky days, when many
tourists come, they can get two turns for each boat. In total, they may get ten turns a
day.” (Personal interview with Ming Saros, 35, July 26, 2008)

From these extracts, we could see that Pou Yeb’s family is quite wealthy among the
Muslim Cham villagers in Chong Kneas for they have been involved in tourism sector. They
have six adult workers in the family and they have got five boats for transporting tourists
every day. On average, they can earn about US$ 50 to US$ 100 a day.

They started their marriage since 1987 in this village. “Now we have 6 children, 3
boys and 3 girls. They actually were born in Chroy Metrey, in Kandal province”. After Pol
Pol regime, Saros, the wife, lived in Kampong Preah, Battambang, in another Cham
community, with her uncle. She occasionally visited Chong Kneas where she met him. At that
time, he sold his labor to support his mother. As a matter of fact, his father has another wife
and left heavy burden on the son, they said. Then his mother went to Saros’s uncle and asked
her to marry Yeb. As their tradition of dowry, they paid 500 Riel.

As a new couple, they decided to fish for a living. They went fishing in collaboration
with their relatives. This form of social capital existed then from which they could take
benefit for starting new life. In such collaboration, they used their labor while they had boat
and fishing gears. Therefore, they got only one third of the fish caught. They then went
forward by doing various jobs such as ice-sellers and grocery.

Saros was not hesitant and was happy to describe her past jobs as quite successful. She
continued that:

“We then started to sell ice in 1995. We were so happy to get bonuses. For every
hundred cubes of ice, we got one cube free. One cube was about 1 meter long or over
a hundred kilograms. For the last six year, the amount of ice sold soared. We could
sell about a hundred per day. It was because there was very few ice sellers.” (Personal
interview with Ming Saros, 35, July 26, 2008)

Of course, they made quite a lot of profits from that. She continued, in each cube of
ice, they could save about 7,000 Riels. For the last six years, they could even make much
more profits because they could sell about eighty to a hundred cubes of ice.

The ice producer was also a key catalyst for this success. She then kept on by saying
that they were constantly provided support such as baskets for keeping ice freeze and later
ice-breaking machine. She commented, “He was so kind to us though he was not a Muslim
Cham like us.”

Consequently, they finally could build a floating house own their own and gain more
capital for investing on other forms of business. Yet, after building the house, their business
was not so good for several reasons. As a matter of facts, their neighbors, both Khmer and
Vietnamese, started to sell ice too after they saw Saros’s family’s success. Secondly, ice
consumption was falling down as a result of decline in the amount of fish caught.

She described that slowdown as a good break for the family. “My husband and
children used much energy for selling the ice. Every day, they carried ice here and there
which made them so exhausted,” she said. It was when the amount of ice sold fell down that
the family were relaxing and got a new idea.

Seeing a new trend of development, they got themselves involved in tourism. They
first bought a Tuk Tuk, a popular vehicle run by a motorcycle attached with a cart. The eldest
son took the new job. As a Tuk Tuk driver, he made new friends. In spite of Muslim faith
prohibition, he started to drink beer or wine. “Worse than that, he started to use drug,” she
added. Yeb, the father, did not want his son to stay away from him and get addicted with such
drug. So he told his eldest son to drive tourist-boats with him and his second son.

When the eldest son got addicted with drug, he got a lot of problem for himself and
the family. He cut his hand or went away from home for several days making the whole
family was so worried. Saros told, “We were so worried that he may have drunk wine or used
drug, which made him dare to do anything. In this case, we were upset that he may have
fought or got killed.”

Saros first wanted to send her son to Banteay Meanchey, where there was a place for
treating such drug users. However, she did not do so because she was afraid that the son
would be beaten up or could not stand with any forms of hard treatment. She then got an idea.
She put pills in glass of water without letting him know. Until recently that he started to
behave well. He agreed to go preaching with the elders in other Muslim Cham communities in

What Saros was trying to tell us is that when the family changed to another form of
business. For example, they became Tuk Tuk drivers which directly touched with the outside
world, there was inevitably a problem even though it gave them quite high income. This
problem could later be solved with the attachment to her religion, Muslim. Her son, who was
much addicted to drug, was changed when he joined Muslim praying group.

Livelihood Diversifications of Yeb’s Family

Fishing is believed to be traditional occupation for Muslim Cham. This makes us

question that “why did Yeb’s family moved out of that?” They must have some logical

When asked, why did you not stick with fishing? Yeb quickly replied that, “No!
Actually, we used to fish for quite long. However, it did not make much profit for us. So we
quitted it.” He continued that his father, who was a cattle trader, used to suggest him not to
fish for the whole life for the sake of better life.

“My father told me that you should not keep fishing for your whole life,” said Yeb.
The reasons he later gave are that fish population would fall down and that going fishing was
dangerous to some extent. He explained, “When I went out fishing in the lake far away from
home, I did not feel well at all. I was always worried about my family that they could be hit
by storm and drown.” As a matter of facts, floating houses in the village were sometimes hit
by storms. Different parts of the houses were broken down; property was lost while some
children or old women were drowned. He concluded by confirming, “Fishing is only our
short-term job before we move to a better one.”

Technology and a change in the economic character of Chong Kneas, have played
important roles in determining the mobility of Yeb’s family. After switching his job to selling
ice and driving tourist boats, his livelihood got better and could build a safer house for the
family. Their religious faith did not affect their move into these new opportunities. They
have been aided by the number of active workers in the household.

2- The Case of Ly Sales’s Family

Another case story is worth examining for its diversification of livelihoods and its
family size. Among thirteen members of the family, some drive tourist boats while the rest are
butchers and cloth sellers. It is the case of Ly Sales’s extended family.

The family started when Kob Rosmas was 16 years old. She and Ly Sales got married
in Chroy Metrey and got two children, who later died in Pol Pot regime. In this period, the
family was exvacuted to Battambang. Soon after its fall, Rosmas’s family moved to Chong
Kneas. They had been told that there were a lot of fish there so that they could make a living
on it.

At first, they did not have many fishing tools. They got only one boat and one fishing
net. They caught quite a lot of fish, which was then dried and made to fish paste. They
continued the occupation for quite a long time since they could get much income for which
they used to buy more fishing boats, nets and built a floating house.

Later, they changed to new occupation/jobs. In the last three years, the parents bought
one boat to transport the tourists for sightseeing around the lake. Not long after that, they

bought three more boats, making the total boats of the family now four. Les Pli, the fifth
child, and his wife became butchers while two other daughters became cloth sellers.

Table B: Family Profile of Ly Sales

A Relation to Marital Spoken
N Name Sex Occupation Place
ge Head of HH Status Languages
Cham/ Chong
1 Kub Roymas 51 Wife F  Housewife
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
2 Ly Sales 56 Head of HH M  Boat driver
Khmer Kneas
3 Les Meth 5 Son M - - Died in DK -
4 Les Ry 3 Daughter F - - Died in DK -
Cham/ Chong
5 Les Pli 28 Son M  Butcher
Khmer Kneas
Daughter Cham/ Chong
6 Su Lork 22 F  Butcher
in law Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
7 Les Navy 25 Son M  Boat driver
Khmer Kneas
Daughter in Cham/ Chong
8 Him Noyani 23 F  Housewife
law Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
9 Les Fariny 22 Daughter F  Clothes seller
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
10 Les Su Kriyas 21 Daughter F  Clothes seller
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
11 Les Fasy 19 Son M  Boat driver
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
12 Les Romly 16 Son M  Boat driver
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
13 Les Arifin 11 Son M  Student
Khmer Kneas

However, Les Navy, the seventh child, and his wife broke record of the family. They
went to Malaysia in 2004, three months after their marriage. The reason was that there was
very few jobs available in Chong Kneas at that time. But the most important reason was they
had a network in Malaysia. His brother-in-law moved to Malaysia for quite a long time that
led to his finally getting Malaysian citizenship.

Staying there was both good and bitter experience for them. At once, the brother-in-
law lent them US$ 100, which was used to buy two bicycles and some staff. They actually
were starting a new business there.

“In Malaysia, we sold fruits, mineral water and milk. Our targets were the construction
workers and visitors to public places. For the first two months, we made quite a lot of
money. For housing, we had to monthly spend about 500 Ringgits [Malaysian
currency, 1 Ringgit was about 1,000 Riels] and about 150 Ringgits for babysitting.”

“Unfortunately, when our visas were expired we met a lot of difficulties. Malaysian
police caught us very often. Sometimes that happened twice a day resulted in loss of
their income for the fine. As a matter of facts, they could earn about 1,000 to 1,500
Ringgits and saved about 400 Ringgits after totaling all spending.” (Personal interview
with Les Navy, boat driver, July 30, 2008)

With their network in Malaysia, they moved there for better opportunities. However,
faced with a lot of difficulties as a illegal migrant, they could not stand with. So they returned
to Cambodia in 2007 and saved some 1,000 Ringgits.

What was intersting about Kob Rosmas is that her information that Chong Kneas,
there were few men . Consequently, no local men came to ask her daughters for marriage.

In their case also technology change has played an important part in their livelihood,
which also lead to their mobility. Secondly social capital, in the form of their connection with
people in Malaysia, and their own enterprise there, and some financial capital gained there,
have played a part in their becoming tourist boat owners and managers. Thirdly the presence
of a large family labour force has been important in being able to operate tourist boats.

3- The Case of Sa El’s Family

Sa El, 48, is the head of quite a big family which consists of 8 members. The oldest
child is 24 while the youngest is 12 years old. The main income for the family comes from
fishing. There are five active members who help the family to fish which make it a quite well
household in the community.

Table C: Family Profile of Sa El

Relation to Marital Spoken
N Names Age Sex Occupation Place
Head of HH Status Languages
Cham/ Chong
1 Sa El 48 Head of HH M  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
2 Ser Srey 46 Wife F  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
3 El Aisas 24 Daughter F  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
4 SunTrolib 27 Son in Law M  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
5 El Matsat 22 Daughter F  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
6 Ses Saros 21 Son in Law M  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
7 El Mosa 20 Son M  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
8 El Mansot 18 Son M  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
9 El Miasmas 14 Daughter F  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
10 El Troheat 12 Son M  Fishing
Khmer Kneas

Sitting in his floating house and smoking his cigarettes in a relaxing way, Sa Él was
asked if he did not go fishing. He quickly answered with a smile that, “No! I don’t. Because
today I do not feel well. My children have gone fishing.” While most of villagers in his age
are away for fishing, he is staying at home. But it is alright for him since he has other people-
his children do the work for him. This introduction shows that, in his family, there is enough
work force, needed to fish. Consequently, the family is quite wealthy.

None of the family members work outside the community or sell labor to others. At
least five of his children can help him fish. They were not much concerned about going to
school, they mostly did not study higher than primary school. Furthermore, the numbers of
laborers of the family increased when two of the children recently got married, making the
total numbers of labor 7 people. But that was not enough for his large-scale fishing during dry
season. He then had to rent two more laborers. The fish caught were sold by his wife, Seu
Srey, 46, at local market. This helps increase his family income because selling fish at the
market is more expensive than wholeselling at the shore of the lake.

As a result, the total income of the family is about US$ 15 a day. He said that the
income generated was spent for various items ranging from daily foods to fishing tools.

“This year since my children are growing and able to go fishing on their own, I had to
buy one more set of fishing tools for them. I basically spent about US$ 105 for fishing
nets and US$ 165 for a fishing boat. There are more items on which I had to spend.”
(Personal interview with Sa El, fisherman, 48, July 27, 2008.)

Current economic status of Sa El family seems to be good, so what was it like when he
first moved in Chong Kneas?

Sa El arrived at Chong Kneas as early as 1979, just after the fall of Khmer Rouge
Regime. To start new livelihood, he alone caught fish for barter with rice since he had no
ricefield. In 1982, he married to a Cham woman in Chong Kneas whose name is Seu Srey.
The new couple went to the nearby forest to cut firewoods which were later sold for their
livelihood. It was not so likely to succeed. Very little of the firewood were bought. They then
shifted to another job. Sa El went to the same forest, but this time he tried to search for baby
birds and brought them to the market. Once again, he encountered difficulties- he had to stay
in the forest regardless of any animals and he could not found as many bird babies as he
wanted. One year later, he stopped doing the job.

Later he and his wife sold their labor to fishermen in the village. Each of them got a
wage of 25 Riels a day. Their responsibilities were to set fishing nets.

“Twenty five Riel at that time was quite a high income. The Muslim Cham who
employed us was so kind to us. He also gave us some fish for our daily foods.
Consequently, we only spent some of our wages to buy rice while the rest was saved.
About a year later we could buy fishing net to do fishing on our own.”

“Then our livelihood was a bit better, but it was not long. My wife who just gave birth
to our first baby was not quite well. Her health was a day better and worse in the next

day. I could not fully work on the fishing, instead spent much time taking care of her
and the baby. We were in great difficulties again then. We did not catch much fish and
then did not have money to cure her. I finally borrowed some money from the Cham
who I used to work for the treatment of my wife.”

“When she was fully recovered, we did not know what could we do to return the
money. We then got an idea of borrowing more money to buy Ourn- a quite large
fishing net with the ability to catch more fish). With this, I could make better income.
However, I had to give wages for workers who helped us fishing, leaving only small
amount of money for his family. Therefore, I could hardly return the money to the
Cham fellow who sympathized my family. He did not force us to pay back
immediately since he liked us. We helped him catch huge amount of fish when he
hired our labor. In addition, he did not charge us the interest rate. Cham did not take
the interest according to the Qur’an”

“Just after I could return the money and had some savings for building a floating
house, the fish population declined. In effect, I could not catch as much fish as I could
before. In contrast, the price of gasoline constantly rises. I finally decided to change
ways of fishing.”

“When my children grew and was able to go fishing, I stopped using the Ourn, which
cost more, especially on gasoline and workers’ wages. Now my adult children and I
went fishing on small boats using normal-sized nets. It cost less, but gave us quite
good money. Each could earn about US$ 5 every day we go fishing.” (Personal
interview with Sa El, fisherman, 48, July 27, 2008.)

Sa El livelihood seemed not to be good since he got married. He and his wife built a
small hut near the bank and then when he fished on his own the family lived in his fishing
boat. The family at that time was having hard time: the number of active member was less
than that of dependence members. “It was not very easy for us at that time because we had to
go fishing and our children were still small, they could not help us,” said Sa El.

Their livelihood got better, however, when the children grew up. They could go
fishing on their own and help make more incomes for the family. From the story it can also be
inferred that social capital in the form of a Muslim network played important roles for the
family’s mobility. Imagine that if the Cham who lent the family money to start large-scale
fishing, Ourn, charged interest, how much would Sa El’s family have to pay back? He
concluded that if compared to the past, his livelihood was a bit better.

4- The Case of Ly Sattas’s Family

A neighbor of Sa El’s is Ly Sattass, a thirty-five fishing woman in Chong Kneas. In

her family of seven people, there are five active members, whose jobs are fishers and boats

While her husband, Mat Sen, 45, works as a guard for taking care of ships at Chong
Kneas harbor, she and her three children go fishing. The rest goes to school.

With her parents, Ly Sattas moved from Battambang to Chong Kneas in the early
1980 after understanding about the availability of resources in Chong Kneas. They were told
that there were a lot of fish in Chong Kneas where they could fish for making a living.

Table D: Family Profile of Ly Sattas

Relation to Marital Spoken
N Names Age Sex Occupation Place
Head of HH Status Languages
Cham/ Chong
1 Ly Sattas 35 Head of HH F  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
2 Mat Sen 45 Husband M  Ship keeper
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
3 Mat Rona 19 Daughter F  fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
4 Mat Haro 17 Son M  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
5 Mat Les 13 Son M  Fishing
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
6 Mat Ravy 12 Daughter F  Student
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
7 Mat Rosolin 6 Daughter F  Student
Khmer Kneas

About ten years later, she got married to Mat Sen there. As a matter of fact, both of
them were born in Chroy Metrey, Kandal province, and were evacuated to Battambang
between 1975 to 1979. They then started fishing using several nets with a small boat on
which her family stayed. Unfortunately, it did not make much income for the family.

“Sometimes the nets were stolen or hit by storms. Since we did not make much
money, we did not buy new nets, but repaired it by ourselves. What was harder for us
was that the damage was huge. I meant sometimes we could not catch many fish since
the nets were still being fixed.” (Personal interview with Ly Sattas, 35, July 27, 2008.)

In spite of that, Ly Sattas could build a floating house in 1999. Much of financial resources
came from fishing they did in the last four or five years. They at that time also used Ourn, and
follow similar procedure as Sa El’s family.

“Once we used to do large-scale fishing. We used Ourn and had one big boat along
with two small boats. We hired labors for helping us. We got quite a lot of money
from that but we had to spend for many purposes. First we bought gasoline, paid the
workers, and sometimes we were asked, to some extent, forced to give some tips to the
fishery office.” (Personal interview with Ly Sattas, 35, July 27, 2008.)

Other sources of the finance for building their house came from her mother and relatives for
building the house.

“I actually had not enough money at that time. My mother and relatives gave and lent
me some extra money. We then tried to find a way to repay the money and to feed our
children.” (Personal interview with Ly Sattas, 35, July 27, 2008.)

Her roles and the children’s changed when Mat Sen had changed the job. She
continued that:

“My husband first helped to fish, but later he got a new work as a guard at the harbor.
So I am alone do the fishing with the children.”

“We did not catch as much fish as our neighbors. First, it was because we did not have
“large-scale” fishing gears, and most importantly, we had only fewer people. As you
can see, I have only two sons and one daughter who can help the work of the family.
The sons could go fishing together on one boat while the daughter and I helped
manage home. When the nets were broken for whatever reasons, my daughter and I
had to fix them. We have only one fishing boat” (Personal interview with Ly Sattas,
35, July 27, 2008.)

Ly Sattas kept repeating complaining about her difficulties in the present day situation
at the one hand and about the existing roles of the family on the other hand.

“The new work of my husband is not giving us satisfactory income. He got only US$
50 a month in spite of the fact that he has to look after the boats for nearly twenty-four
hours. He only comes home for lunch and dinner. Meanwhile, we have to get extra
incomes by fishing, which was not a good deal. First, we did not catch a lot fish,
maybe their population declined. Secondly, we had to take much care for our gear by
protecting it from stealing and from storm. As an example, for the sake of the nets, we
last night had to wake up midnight to go fetch them from the lake because the wind
blew very hard and a storm was about come. As a result, everyone’s nets were
partially damaged and fewer fish was caught. Now I am so sleepy since tonight I had
not enough sleep.” (Personal interview with Ly Sattas, 35, July 27, 2008.)

Paused for a while, she later continued that if she could, she would not choose to live
or earn a living on the lake. She prefers to run business on the land even that business may
give her half the income she was making on the lake nowadays.

“I would choose 10,000 Riels of running business on the land over 20,000 Riels of
fishing in the lake. In addition, the floating house needs a lot of attention. Different
from the fixed house on the land, it is easily and quickly got cracked. This means we
have to repair in a certain period. For me I have to do the reparation every two years.
It takes me about 2,000,000 Riels for buying bamboos or timber for the boat below
and zinc for the roof.” (Personal interview with Ly Sattas, 35, July 27, 2008.)

Ly Sattas concluded that she wished she had a fixed house on the land so that she
could run other business if she had financial capital and that her children could easily go to
school. Her only wish for the children is that they will be able to know some basic knowledge
and then run a small business on land in the village. In fact, she was also distributed a piece of

land just before the election in 2008. She showed her intention to build a house as soon as she
has enough money.

Regarding to the Muslim outside the community, she said that sometimes, “not very
often,” the Malaysian Muslim came in Chong Kneas and provided the villagers several
materials like shirts, trousers, Saron, and some money. She used to get 90,000 Riels totally.

The two extracts above thus show that the most fundamental strength of the middle
group is family size. They usually have three to six non-dependent members who can help
the family to fish. While Sa El’s family, the first case, have about six non-dependence
members, the second case of Ly Sattas’s household has only three, which by and large
resulted in smaller income for her family.

These reflect the work by Derrick J. Stenning, Household Viability among the
Pastoral Fulani, 1958. The work is about “family development,” which is referred to cyclical
changes in the size and composition of viable domestic groupings based upon the family
(Goody, 1971: 92). The changes were brought about by the birth, marriage, and death of
family members. When one household gave births (to) or married children, its size changed.

“They involved not merely changes in family constitution, but affect, and are affected
by, the relation between the family and its means of subsistence, which, as a domestic unit, it
manages, exploits and consumes in close co-residence, continuous co-operation, and
commensality,” stated the author. What he means is that such a domestic unit is viable when
the labor it can provide is suitable for the exploitation of its means of subsistence, while the
latter is adequate for the support of the members of the domestic unit.

5- The Case of Les Saros’s Family

Les Saros is a fifty-five year old widow since 2004. In her small house along the road
coming from Siem Reap town to the shore of the lake, she alone raises four children by
collecting natural resources available in the community. The livelihood of the whole,
however, much depends on harbor activities.

Table E: Family Profile of Ly Saros

Relation to Marital Spoken
N Names Age Sex Occupation Place
Head of HH Status Languages
Cham/ Chong
1 Les Saros 55 Head of HH F  Sick
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Kg.
2 Sim Sen 56 Husband M  Devoiced
Khmer Cham
Cham/ Chong
3 Sen Rosat 24 Son M  Porter
Khmer Kneas
Daughter in Cham/ Chong
4 Lim Sothea 24 F  Housewife
Law Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
5 Sen Yan 23 Son M  Camera man
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
6 Sen ry 21 Son M  Porter
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
7 Sen Samry 18 Daughter F  Waitress
Khmer Kneas

Early life in Chong Kneas

Firstly, she told that she was so poor. She had high blood pressure and could not do
any jobs for the last 3 years. That is why the livelihood of the family is getting worse and
worse, she explained. She added that this is also because she had no network or ties. The
network or ties, she referred to the aid from foreign Muslim. She did not hesitate to say that:

“At one time, I was told by our community leader that there was a Muslim in America
[she wrongly chose the word, actually he was a Malaysian according to the leader’s
interview], who intended to help the poorest Cham in the village whose house was by
and large broken.”

“Days by days and months by months, she waited for such moment when she hoped to
have a safer house. Until these days, I am still living in our house which hardly
protects us from the sun light or rain drop,” added she.

“I do not know why, but I suspect that it is because I have no bond or ties. If there was
Foreign Muslims who wanted to help poor people in our community, he or she
obviously would go to the head of the villager first. Can you imagine that the leader
would choose me for such good opportunity? I believe that he would pick his relatives
or closed friends. I have not strong ties in the village and I will not get any helps, as a
result. I am not trying to say that our leader did such unfair things. Let’s fate decide”
(Personal interview with Los Saros, 55, widow, July 28, 2008)

From the extract above, it is likely that Los Saros was not quite happy with the process of
distributing aids to the community. It also indicates that she has not good relation with the
leadership, which she thought resulted in her poverty.

In response, her children started working as best as they could to support the family
since she had high blood pressure. Two of her sons, Sen Rosat, 24, and Sen Ri, 21 works at
Chong Kneas harbor as porters. Each of them earns about 4,000 Riels a day. In the meantime,
the other brother and sister can earn 2,000 Riels more than them by working as cameraman in
tourist photo shop and as a waitress in a local café. He shoots picture for tourists whose
pictures are later stuck to the souvenir bowls they have bought. Nonetheless, Sen Rosat has
his family to feed. He has a Khmer wife with two children, who was baptized to be Muslim.
She concluded though the income for her family is not much, it is not enough for the family.

Her life is insecure. She is not only worried about the family but also about her
husband, Sim Sen who has another wife in Kampong Cham.

“One day in 2004, Sim Sen told me that he would visit Kampong Cham for ten days.
He did not tell me his purpose of going there. Two months later, I learned that he had
another wife there.” (Personal interview with Los Saros, 55, widow, July 28, 2008)

It seems that her new burden as widow head of household took place since then. Though she
said she did not want to meet him again, she still thinks of him to some extent when she met
difficulties in raising the children alone.

Yet she cared so much for the children that she would not let them be fishing workers.
It is not because she was too proud to work for other fishermen, but because she was afraid
that they would be in danger of storm. Of course, her family possesses no fishing gears.
“They are not good at swimming and will surely be nervous when big waves hit the boats,”
she explained. She prefers them to work on land rather than on water.

It is necessary to trace the history of this family in order to get a better understanding
of situation of the poor group.

As a matter of facts, she was born in 1953 in a butcher family in Phnom Penh. After
the fall of Pol Pol, she decided to settle in Chong Kneas in 1980 after learning that all her
brothers, sisters and parents were killed in Pursat where they were newly made to work hard
and brutally killed. As newcomers to Chong Kneas, she worked in kind for local fishers by
fixing fishing nets. She got some fish for her service. Lacking of food and proper treatment,
one of her daughter died not soon after she came to Chong Kneas.

“My daughter died because we had not enough food. Also at that time, there were not
any hospitals or healthcare centers yet. I could remember that clearly. One day after I
returned from fixing fishing net near the lake, I found that she was shaking. I thought
she had normal fewer. I did not know what to do other than to give her some water
which I had boiled with traditional medical herb. It did not get better, in opposite, her
body got bigger and bigger. At last, she passed away. I cried a lot.” (Personal
interview with Los Saros, 55, widow, July 28, 2008)

Yet there had to be other reasons, which should be taken into account. She actually
said that when she first arrived to Chong Kneas, the villagers were not so happy with her
presence. Her family was suspected to be Khmer Rouge’s spies. It is noticeable that in Chong
Kneas in particular and Siem Reap in general, peace and stability were not fully achieved.
There was tension between Phnom Penh forces and Pol Pot forces. The village was
sometimes raided by Khmer Rouge soldiers, which resulted in damages to houses, fortress
and lives. The authority had to be careful with newcomers to the village to prevent such

Her family lived in fears caused either by Khmer Rouge raids or by the local authority.
In such situation, it is obvious that she was excluded and did not benefit from social
protection. Conversely, the family was spied on - the authority secretly kept eyes on them to
see if her family spied on them or not. Soon after, Sim Sen, her husband, was enlisted to K5, a
project aimed at building strategic walls against Khmer Rouge attack. Many thousands were
dead for many reasons such as hunger, landmine and malaria (Evans, 2003). Meanwhile, not
so many villagers were friendly to her family.

Consequently, she had no social capitals. To be able fish own her own, she at least
should have a net, which cost about three tamleung in gold. She could neither afford to buy a

fishing net and boat nor to borrow from the neighbors. She ended up in repairing old nets,

Another Challenge

Gradually, the allegation that her family spied on the community disappeared when
her husband became a Senachun, a title for military personnel who helped protect the village
from Khmer Rouge raids in the 1980s. If not succeeded in doing so, they could at least signal
the danger. Yet the family had to challenge another difficulty. They had to get on well with
other Muslim Cham community in Chong Kneas.

A clear illustration of such was when she gave birth to her second baby. She sadly said
that at that moment there were few villagers came to help her deliver the baby. There were no
sufficient materials, she said, she had to cut her husband’s uniform to make cloth for the baby.
She questioned about Muslim brotherhoods. “Where was the value of Muslim brotherhood?”
wondered she. “Was it about helping each other when one was in need? But when I was in
need, I got nothing,” she added.

Of course, she understood the difficulties the Cham was then encountering. She

“I knew that at that time all villagers were facing difficulties. And I understood that
they were busy taking care of their own families” (Personal interview with Los Saros,
55, widow, July 28, 2008)

She concluded that Muslim brotherhoods were then about helping brothers of their own. In
other words, they helped only their relatives. She thought that she was a stranger that the
Muslim community did not care or help her family regardless of her Muslim faith.

“Though I am (Muslim) Cham, I must insist, they then regarded me a nomadic

(Muslim) Cham because they did not know for sure where I was from. They did not
know any of my relatives in the community to prove my Cham identity.” (Personal
interview with Los Saros, 55, widow, July 28, 2008)

Some of her relatives survived and returned to Phnom Penh. Only she who moved to Chong
Kneas where her identity was suspected for there was no one to prove her identity. The
allegation that she was a Khmer Rouge spy made her hard to earn a living and hard to
socialize with the Cham community. So what did she do to gain trust and get into the group?

Loh Saros then got an idea to get on well with the Cham community and to prove her
Cham identity. She joined every Muslim ceremony, did fasting when appropriate. Her
husband and sons tried to go to mosque as regular as possible. Moreover, they tried to be
helpful in community by volunteering to do some services such as constructing Madrasas,
their traditional school or mosque. However, these strategies were not so successful.

“It is recently that they started to trust me. They came to invite us to join the Ramadan
and other social events regularly. Before, they would celebrate the events only among

themselves and rarely invited us.” (Personal interview with Los Saros, 55, widow, July
28, 2008)

These days her family has to challenge other form of obstacles, however. That is development

With new development of social infrastructures such as road and port, her livelihood
has changed. As stated above, her children started to work since their father left the family for
his new wife in Kampong Cham. Two of them work as porters at the Chong Kneas harbor as
their father did some years ago.

To her their wages were not much, even not enough for supporting the family. Still
they decided to work at the harbor. Every day they helped travelers who arrived at the port by
carrying their luggage and loads of goods from the boats or ships which stopped close to the

“Before tourists, travelers, traders or businessmen needed workers to carry their

suitcases and goods. My sons had works to do and every day got some money, at least
one to two dollars. Lately, Sou Jing Company established a so-called modern harbor. I
heard they said it was for the sake of community development.”

“Now both tourists and traders no longer need worker to carry their goods. Firstly, it is
because they can drag their own suitcases by themselves on the smooth bridge.
Secondly, the Sou Jing Company provides other services, which were formerly done
by porters such as my sons. They use machine to upload the goods to the trucks or to
carry them from the trucks to the boats. From then on, there have not been so much
work for the porter. Sometimes the two of my sons have no work. I do not know what
else they can do if they did not have knowledge or any skills.” (Personal interview
with Los Saros, 55, widow, July 28, 2008)

In spite of that, other two children of hers got new jobs. One works as a cameraman while the
other works as a waitress in a café. These two jobs are more or less results of such

Finally, being asked to compare her livelihood now to the past, she quickly replied
that she would describe it a downward mobility. Pointing to her house where there were holes
and broken pillars, she explained that she was so poor that she could not fix the house. She
said she sometimes had no rice to cook for my children who went to work. Some other times
even if she had rice, she cannot afford to buy food. In this case, she depended on green grass
shopper, water lily nearby the house. She concluded that her family would collapse if the
members cannot find better jobs while goods are more and more expensive.

There are several case stories which are more or less similar to Loh Saros’s who have
no “means of production- mainly no fishing gears,” use their own labor as a livelihood
strategy and much depend on natural resources available in the community.

6- The Case of Ramly’s Family

Quite similar to Loh Saros, Ramly who is a forty-seven-year-old Cham has no fishing
gears. Every day he rows his boat to collect firewood while his daughters work as sellers in a
local souvenir shop. His floating house is in need of repairing.

He has six children with his Khmer wife. The eldest son died in 2004 because of
stomach cancer leaving him alone to go to forest to cut firewood, which later is sold for his
livelihood. Other children of his are girls, which he could not go with him for some reasons.
Two work as souvenir sellers at a local tourist photo shop while the other two are students. He
stopped fishing few years ago because fewer fish were caught.

Table F: Family Profile of Ramly

Relation to Marital Spoken
N Names Age Sex Occupation Place
Head of HH Status Languages
Cham/ Firewood Chong
1 Ramly 47 Head of HH M 
Khmer collector Kneas
Cham/ Chong
2 Tuy Asimas 42 Wife F  House wife
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
3 Ly Sakirub 17 Son M  Died
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Souvenir Chong
4 Ly Fariny 18 Daughter F 
Khmer seller Kneas
Cham/ Souvenir Chong
5 Ly Rors Ney 16 Daughter F 
Khmer seller Kneas
Cham/ Chong
6 Ly Rossitas 13 Daughter F  Student
Khmer Kneas
Cham/ Chong
7 Ly Rosfias 11 Daughter F  Student
Khmer Kneas
3 Chong
8 Raksa Son M  N/A N/A
Mths Kneas

With his uncle, he moved to Chong Kneas in 1979 because his parents died in Khmer
Rouge regime. During the regime, he was evacuated from Phnom Penh to Battambang
province. He then sold his labor by helping to fish.

In 1981, he married to a Khmer woman, Srey. The new couple has no certain jobs.
Sometimes they were hired to fish and sometimes were not. Even though they got little
wages, but at least they could buy rice and be given some fish for food. This made them

When no one hired their labor, they had to find other ways. One of the ways was to cut

“I would do any things to feed my family. I went to cut firewood and brought them
home. Then my wife would sell them at the market along the roads. I some other time was
hired to fish. I did not mind doing all kind of work, easy or hard.” (Personal interview with
Ramly, 47, July 29, 2008)

The livelihood was not so successful that until 2004 they could build a floating house.
They had not enough money and decided to borrow money from ACLEDA Bank in Siem
Reap town. He said that:

“Since we had more children, we had to build a safer settlement. We all could not stay
in one small boat any longer. A proper house was indeed needed then. We are all
working hard for our every day meals and returning the money to the Angkar
[ACLEDA Bank] Now two of my daughters work as souvenir seller at a local photo
shop to deal with the debt and our daily lives.” (Personal interview with Ramly, 47,
July 29, 2008)

What he was trying to say was that he was in very difficult situation now. Most of the family
members are dependents : he has no adult children to help him fishing or going to collect
firewood. His adult daughters could not go with him for such work. Therefore, they had to do
other kind of jobs- in this case souvenir seller.

His floating house cost him much. In addition to the interest money we have to return
to the bank, he has to fix it several times.

“Actually now my house is urgently needed reparation. As you can observe now its
floor is almost in the water. Now I do not know where I can get money to fix this.” (Personal
interview with Ramly, 47, July 29, 2008)

Srey, his Khmer wife, interrupted and suggested a solution. She said

“We wish to have a piece of land and may relocate the house there so that we do not
have to often fix it like this. We actually were distributed a piece of land recently, but
cannot do so. On the one hand, we have no money for the cost of relocation and on the
other hand, our old house does not suit with the size of the land given. The land size is
seven by ten meters whereas our house is eight by eleven meters. This means we have
to spend more extra money for adjusting the house and buying pillars for supporting
the house. All of these are challenges for us.”

“We dare not to borrow any more money for the bank. Last time, we borrowed sums
of money and could hardly return it since the interest month by month was increasing.
Or if we go to the bank now, we will not have any property to deposit, neither a
fishing gear nor a big boats.” (Personal interview with Srey, housewife, July 29, 2008)

The wife preferred relocating the house to fixing it. While the first preference is perceived to
be easier, the latter requires repeated reparation, once every two years, probably. Nonetheless,
they cannot do so for they can not get enough money either from their existing job or
borrowing from the bank for some obvious reasons. They have not any assets to be deposit, a
precondition for the loan .

Next, the place of their resident should be investigated for deepening understanding of
above situation. This family places their floating house at the edge of Cham community. On
the one side, there was a Khmer community whereas the other side faces to a mosque to the

Cham community. This prompted us to question why that was so. Is it that because such
location permits the family good environment to keep contacts with both Khmer and Cham in
the commune.

“Yes, I can easily go to the mosque and stay in touch with the Cham community while
my wife can keep contacts with the Khmer. She actually was converted to be Muslim
in seven years after our wedding day. She sometimes joins Muslim ceremony, but not
very often” (Personal interview with Ramly, 47, July 29, 2008)

This may imply that the wife was not acculturating with the Cham community, which
resulted in lesser ties with the community. The fact that they went to borrow it from the bank,
not their Cham neighbors, when they needed money is an example of such phenomenon. To,
some extent, they lack of access to social capital in the Cham community.

Yet, when asked how their neighbors viewed on their inter-ethnic marriage, they
quickly replied that:

“It is ok; they did not comment any things on us. It was our right to marry someone
we love. Anyway, we make good neighbors with both communities and participated in
both Cham and Khmer ritual ceremonies. As illustrations, we made good neighbors
with a Khmer family, we always keep our floating house near each other. Moreover,
the Malaysian Muslims did not mind our inter-ethnic marriage and gave us money
three times as other Muslim Chams in our village. First, we got 10,000 Riels, then
20,000 Riels and last got 100,000 Riels. However, my livelihood is not any better.”
(Personal interview with Ramly, 47, July 29, 2008)

Ramly’s family seems to be concerned much on a fixed house. A possible reason of

many is that they understood that their livelihood might not afford the cost of repairing their
current floating house. They repeatedly affirmed that their jobs as a firewood collector and
souvenir sellers. Moreover, in an environment where available the heavy jobs, energy-
consuming work are, the livelihood of any households that have many non-dependence
members, especially many adult sons, are seen to be better.

In Ramly’s case, his daughters could not go fishing or cutting firewood with him, they
found other type of job in tourism sector, which gives them salary of some fifteen to twenty
US dollars. He kept on repeating that he was too sorry that his son died of cancer. One reason,
of course, was because he loved him very much and second reason was that he did not live
and help him fishing or collecting firewood, I believe. He concluded, “I am now physically
quite old and can not complete much work. I am so worried about the livelihood of the

In summary, this group of Muslim Cham in Chong Kneas has a vulnerable livelihood.
Firstly, they lacks of non-dependent members who can help the family earn extra money.
Secondly, it is because they do not possess of means of production, they lack of fishing gears.
In turn, what they mostly depend on for their livelihood is natural resources available in the
community such as green grass shopper, water lily, and firewood, etc. They are also easily
negatively affected by some social and economic changes in the commune such as

development of roads and harbors. Consequently, they mostly stay in the same level of social
stratification. In other words, they remain poor. Worse than that, some of them are in debt.

There are also some Muslim Cham who moved out of the community for several
reasons. Sa Rosat’s and Soh Hajin’s families are a good example of such movement.


Though they had a hard time making a living with “empty-hands” after Pol Pot
regime, the Cham in Chong Kneas, Siem Reap made some strategies. Fishing was the main
source for their income. They could process the fish into many forms such as Prahok (fish
paste), dried fish, smoke fish and so on and so forth. When some technology was introduced
to the community, some of them involved themselves into other forms of livelihoods such as
ice selling, grocery, and especially machine boats. They have been using machine boats for
tourism. Many tourists, who are interested in exploring the livelihood in Tonle Sap or for
whatever reasons, come to visit the community. This gives those Cham along with other
ethnic groups, who be able to buy the boats. They tried to get access to technology for the
better livelihood.

Moving place of resident is another strategy the Cham used to get better livelihood.
Seeing other places with better opportunity, they would think of in-migrating there. Still, they
would choose to move into other Muslim Cham community. Livelihoods diversification also
depends on the availability of non-dependent labour in the household group. Those household
who have more active members seem to get better income since they have more labor to

Last but not least, social capital is very important for the Cham’s livelihood. As each
case shown, the Cham had quite strong solidarity among their Muslim brotherhood. Those
Cham who are believed to be one of the brothers could benefit from this bond. They could
borrow from them some money to run business without paying interest rate. However, those
Cham who were suspected not to be Muslim were excluded from the bond. They had no way
to access to social capital, borrowing free-interest money or getting help. As the cases of
above indicated, they could not borrow money to run business, which consequently lead them
to remain in labor sector.

Going through some thirty years after the fall of Pol Pot regime and passing through
hard time of “empty-hand” livelihood, some aspects of the Cham mobility have appeared-
poor, middle and wealthy, which is measured by wealth. The finding is likely to show that
among them, some are doing quite good in livelihood. The wealthy benefit from their
involvements in fishing and especially the tourism sector. Individual Cham working in the
tourist industry can as a family earn US$ 50 to US$ 100 a day. The middle group simply are
those whose jobs are fishermen. They normally get involved in fishery and have their own
means of catching fish. Their daily incomes are various in accordance with fishing season,
but the average is US$ 10 to US$ 49. The poor are those Cham who do possess minimal

means of production, say in fishing. They use their labor to earn money such as fishing
laborers or porters.

This study focused only on livelihood strategy of the Muslim Cham in Chong Kneas,
where two other ethnic groups, Khmer and Vietnamese also reside. Further study should be
extent to a comparative approach. In other words, it can be interesting to explore the
livelihood of other two ethnic groups to see if which group has better or worse livelihood in
the same ecological context.


A- Interview:

Él, I. (2008, August 2). Imam. (L. A. Tha, Interviewer)

Él, S. (2008, August 27). fisherman. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Hatin, S. (2008, August 30). fish seller. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Idress. (2008, August 30). Haji. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Kas. (2008, August 2). Vendor. (L. A. Tha, Interviewer)

Loh, M. (2008, August 29). fisherman. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Man, E. (2008, August 2). Head of Chong Khneas Commune. (L. A. Tha, Interviewer)

Navy, S. (2008, August 27). tourist boat driver. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Mat, L. (2008, August 2). villager. (L. A. Tha, Interviewer)

Phally, S. (2008, August 29). Head of Health Center. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Potts, R. B. (2008.). Human Evolution. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation.

Ramly. (2008, August 29). wood collector. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Rosat, S. (2008, August 30). Former Tuon. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Rosmas, K. (2008, August 27). Housewife. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Saroh, L. (2008, August 28). Housewife. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Sattah, L. (2008, august 27). fisherwoman. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Thavy, N. (2008, August 28). school director. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

Sless, H. (2008, August 27). fisherman. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

sim, S. (2008, August 30). traditional healer. (T. L. Ang, Interviewer)

B- Selective Books:

ADB. (2007). Chong Kneas Inventory Surveys. Phnom Penh: ADB.

Becker, E. (1998). When The War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution.
Public Affairs.

Benny Widyono and Ben Kiernan. (2007). Dancing in Shadows: Sihanouk, the Khmer Rouge,
and the United Nations in Cambodia. Rowman & Littlefield

Bontemps, Arna, and Jack Conroy. (1997). Anyplace but Here. University of Missouri Press.

Chandler, D. (2007). History of Cambodia. Westview Press.

Chandler, D. P. (1999). Brother Number One: A Political Biography Of Pol Pot (Revised
Edition). Westview Press.

Chandler, D. P. (1991). The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Politics, War, and Revolution
Since 1945. Yale university press.

Collin, W. A. (1996). The Cham in Cambodia. Phnom Penh: Center for Advanced Study.

DoP. (2006). General Situation of Chong Khneas: Information for Development. Siemreap:
Siem Reap Department of Planning.

Etcheson, C. (2005). After the Killing Fields: Lessons from the Cambodian Genocide.
Greenwood Publishing Group.

Gottesman, E. (2003). Cambodia After the Khmer Rouge: Inside the Politics of Nation
Building. London: Yale University Press.

Hinton, A. L. (2004). Why Did They Kill?: Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide. University
of California Press.

Hun Sen: The Strongman in Cambodia.

Jackson, K. D. (1992). Cambodia, 1975-1978: Rendezvous with Death. Princeton University


Luco, F. (2008). Management of Local Conflicts in Cambodia: An Anthropological Approach

to Traditional and New Practices. Phnom Penh: UNESCO.

Maltoni, B. (2006). Migration in Cambodia. Phnom Penh: IOM.

Mysticwiec, E. (1988). Punishing the Poor: The International Isolation of Kampuchea.

Oxford: Oxfam.

Ponchaud, F. (1978). Cambodia: Year Zero. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston of
Canada, limited.

PRK. (1989). Important Political News in Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh: 10 Years after the
revolution , 1-29.

Slocomb, M. The People's Republic of Kampuchea, 1979-1989: The Revolution after Pol Pot.
Silkworm Books.

Stcok, E. (2004). De l’hétérogénéité des Chams du Cambodge: Représentations identitaires

au travers des diagrammes de protection magiques. INALCO-
Departement Asie du Sud Est.

Transport, M. o. (2004). Chong Kneas Environmental Improvement Project. Phnom Penh:

PLANCENTER, Pacific Consultants International and SAWAC.

Tully, J. (2006). A Short History of Cambodia: From Empire to Survival. Allen & Unwin.


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