With its pristine beaches, ancient temples and exotic jungle, it’s easy to see why Cambodia’s turbulent history is now becoming an increasingly distant memory. This beautiful country is at peace and Cambodians are focused on building a positive future. Many areas of Phnom Penh are booming; the city has an elegant riverfront and lively nightlife and its people are friendly, dignified, and optimistic. Still, it remains hard to escape the poverty and the fact that many Cambodians struggle to survive.
Cambodia is about two-thirds the size of the United Kingdom and one of the least populated Asian countries. With a coastline on the tropical Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia occupies the heart of South East Asia and at one time was home to the mighty Khmer empire.
Much of Cambodia is dissected by the impressive Mekong River. It is a fertile country with forests and gemstone mines that will help build the framework for future growth. If you’re interested in international volunteer work in an unspoiled country, now’s certainly the time to see Cambodia.
Why volunteer in Cambodia:
Cambodia has a sad recent history. In the late 1970s, the Khmer Rouge came into power. Fronted by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge rallied the locals into a communist military movement.
Their goal was to return the country to the period of Angkor Wat when they were the dominant force in the region. The people who built the Angkor Wat structures were known as the Khmer and Rouge, referred to the communist beliefs of the group, although mainstream communists would probably blanch at the beliefs of Pol Pot and his ilk.
The story is a long and complex one, but the end result is the Khmer Rouge prevailed in defeating the government forces in Cambodia. They immediately herded all the people out of the cities and into the fields. Their goal was to return the society to an agricultural society.
Part and parcel to this, they began killing anyone considered an intellectual including government workers, doctors, lawyers, politicians and the list continues. Before the Vietnamese eventually defeated them, the Khmer managed to kill off an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the Cambodian population through direct violence, starvation and abuse. The previous rulers were proficient at killing the intellectual class of the population.
The country suffered a huge brain drain and for that reason, volunteers in several disciplines are needed. If looking for a very rewarding experience, volunteering in Cambodia is highly recommended. These areas include teachers, nurses, doctors, building technicians and health nutritionists. Cambodia lacks assistance in educational fields; such as, English language and current awareness is greatly appreciated. Moreover, the health facilities lack proper care and standards.
Australians visiting Cambodia require a visa, which can be applied for online (e-visas, however, are only valid for entry through certain entry points) through the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Tourist visas are valid for 30 days. Foreigners intending to work in Cambodia should obtain a permit through the Cambodian Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training.
Cambodian law requires you to have at least four months’ validity on your passport from your planned return date, however many neighbouring countries, including Thailand, require six months.
Overstaying a visa or work permit is a serious offence under Cambodian law.
Penalties for drug offences are severe and can include lengthy jail sentences.
Cambodia is strict about cultural heritage and protection. A permit is required to purchase or possess cultural and archeological artefacts, with strict penalties, including jail sentences, enforced. Similarly, photographing members of the public without prior permission, especially monks and religious figures, is considered inappropriate.