Streetbuzz Interview

February 20, 2005

Kim Reaksmay: 26 years old, community trainer, young man with a vision; presently stationed in Kratie, Cambodia.


Kim Reaksmay

STREETBUZZ: Kim, when and where were you born?

KIM REAKSMAY: I'm born in 1979, Battambang. My parents moved to Phnom Penh then. I have three brothers and one sister, I am the second son. My father was officer in Ministry of Agriculture. My mother is businesswoman, but now they are both retired, they live in Takeo. It's countryside, fresh air, food, cheap.

STREETBUZZ: About your education?

KIM REAKSMAY: When I'm seven years old I started primary school. In 1995 I graduated junior high school. In 1998 I'm high school grad. From 1999 to 2002 I studied at Norton University. I graduated with BA , in tourism. Then I studied for again my bachelors of english at the I.F.L., Institute for Foreign Languages, but I suspended study.

STREETBUZZ: Do you plan to finish school again?

KIM REAKSMAY: I will return to finish my B.A., but now I want to see the world. Also I was fed up with Phnom Penh: competition, pollution, depressed. Enjoy the province: greenness, rice paddy, river ripples, and fresh air. In Phnom Penh it's hard to see that pollution not good for the province, I want to see it. No, no plan to become monk. This break from school is similar to monastery. Buddha was born in a palace, rich but never saw the people, how they live, sickness, etc. You can't know life if you don't see the way of life.

STREETBUZZ: How is your experience in the province?

KIM REAKSMAY: When I first come to Kampong Cham, I work in a very remote district. It is 40 minute drive every day, remote and dusty. Hard to stay clean. The project is C.B.E.: Cambodia-Based Education. The whole project name is V.B.N.K.: Vickwasthan Bandos Neak Krubkroung (Institutions for Training Managers.) Help the Ministry of Education, improve basic education for children. Grade 1-9, at government/public schools. Improve basic curriculum. Reform curriculum. Life skill program integrated into curriculum. Inform educators, village chiefs, governors, etc. so that they have role to educate children and need to work together. New curriculum not yet developed, to be published in 2006. So: help them to get ready to accept it / changes. Rural skills needed are different from other provinces. Example, river residents learn about crops near river. What are ideal skills for this location? Study two to five hours a week. So, curriculum needs to be customized: each area for example farmers: fertilizers, crops; fishermen: fish, nets; forest: rubber trees. Learn skills appropriate to area. Modern agriculture / old agriculture: don't need to know about correct seeds, fertilizers, etc. Will also create standards, for each group: grade 1-3, grade 4-6, grade 7-9, each will have standard for indicator (see brochure.)

STREETBUZZ: What challenges do you see Cambodia facing?

KIM REAKSMAY: First of all, the biggest issue is stability of politics. This includes issues of corruption and security. Bad because people have already suffered enough. Every election, spent a lot of money to buy votes. There are three parties but all are corrupt. I didn't vote because they're all the same. I worked for a foreign observer so I couldn't vote anyway.
Next is human rights. freedom of speech, movement, participate in the political process. Government staff are servants to the boss. But when I work for NGO: I have right to give my opinion. Not allowed in government. Government doesn't allow that freedom. Like a family: the father has all the power. If want good education, may have to move to city, so rights are important.
Finally, the last issue is human resources: if want to develop the country, who will do it? They need education. What kind? Good education. Where people have opportunity to learn and practice. Learn relevant skill and knowledge. Example college grads don't really know. Power: some of government staff go to other countries for masters degree, but not given opportunity to do work they were assigned. Because if given opportunity they will change program, but make bosses look stupid. So government not using resources correctly.

Kim and V.B.N.K. co-workers
Kim Reaksmay

STREETBUZZ: One thing I've read about the Pol Pot time was that there was a lot of anger of the peasants towards people in the cities. Do you think that this training project could be another example of people in the city telling people in the countryside what to do?

KIM REAKSMAY: I felt I was well trained by my boss before, American boss. His name is John, a retired school principal, he's from your place in the USA! I was introduced by a Maryknoll sister, they don't preach, they just help the people.
My boss believed if a school has a good leader, it will move forward. Before, they thought their role (just) to do reports and tell teachers what to do. Instead they should help teachers to be better teachers! My boss came here to see himself as a helper, so they will follow out of love / respect, not fear. Need to be authentic leader. Authentic leader does what they say. Two: need to have core value. If core value is honesty, you will do what you say, people will trust you. Need to ask the teachers: what kind of boss they want.

STREETBUZZ: What can the provinces provide?

KIM REAKSMAY: In order to make them change, you need to make sure they trust you. Then little by little they start to change. Then the people will follow. There is more than one way to do the work. It is difficult but possible to do it a different way. Before they will take the risk, they need somebody to support / encourage them. They need self-courage to do it.

STREETBUZZ: What can you say about the national economy?

KIM REAKSMAY: Hard for me to imagine / evaluate. It is agricultural country, majority are farmers. How they grow their rice. There is an old saying in Cambodia: "To grow rice, you need water. If you have rice, you can make war." Kings of Angkor - when I think about kings before, much different than leaders we have now. I don't want power, I want who I am. Presently: farmers growing rice. Depend on rain from sky. Irrigation systems out of question. All government ministries working with foreign help. Anyway: not being developed (irrigation.)

STREETBUZZ: Do you know about the end of garment export quotas and the effect this will have on Cambodia?

KIM REAKSMAY: I think the name is sweatshops. 99% from provinces, low education / small salary. Need to pay rent, food, etc., poor diet. Where will they go? Very difficult to return to province. Feel embarrassed, failures. In city: many entertainment, shopping, nice life, out of the sun. But if return to countryside, no entertainment, shopping, etc. And have to work in hot sun. Tiny salary, non-hygienic life. So don't want to go back. In the city they keep shops and taxis in business. So impact is very wide. If they won't to countryside?

STREETBUZZ: What is your personal plan?

KIM REAKSMAY: Working this project since September 2004. Want to see the world, living standard of the people. Please to myself. But maximum one year. Next return to Phnom Penh, finish my B.A. in English. Find job in Phnom Penh, including travel to province. I want scholarship to other country, to study development and education. I want to be Minister of Education, and then I want to be Prime Minister and help the people.

STREETBUZZ: Will you get married?

KIM REAKSMAY: I have no idea right now. Maybe have a girlfriend in other country.

STREETBUZZ: But maybe if you go abroad you won't want to return to Cambodia?

KIM REAKSMAY: I think for me it's no problem to return to Cambodia. No problem living in Phnom Penh, or the province.

STREETBUZZ: Final comments?

KIM REAKSMAY: Do you have any idea where I can go for my scholarship abroad?

Kim Reaksmay


Kim Reaksmay can be contacted at