INTRODUCTION: Kampuchea still faces an uphill road to provide enough food for its people.
GV People sitting in market, eating at table
CU PAN FROM Prepared dishes on table TO woman being served
GV People buying fish, and woman cleaning fish (3 shots)
CU Bottles of liquor
GV People cutting and stacking rice (2 shots)
CU Woman cutting tops of rice and stacking roots for replanting (2 shots)
GV Workers in rice field
SV Water buffaloes crossing paddy, levelling bed for planting
SV People planting rice (4 shots)
GV Villagers washing and swimming in Mekong River
CU Man pulling in net with fish (2 shots)
GV Fishing boats on Mekong at sunset
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Kampuchea still faces an uphill road to provide enough food for its people. The great famine has been overcome through relief donations of money and rice from western agencies and charities. But when Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime was forced to abandon Phnom Penh ahead of a Vietnamese-led offensive in January 1979, the country was in ruins and the population decimated. More suffering followed the Vietnamese intervention, as the continued fighting between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese-backed Heng Samrin government forces caused a mass relocation of the people and a catastrophic famine. The Vietnamese troops are still there in large numbers and the political future of the country is still unresolved.
SYNOPSIS: The nation's renewed vitality is obvious in Phom Penh's market. For five years it had been dormant but a year ago the new government re-opened it and made trading possible, by reintroducing the riel currency which Pol Pot abolished. People good-naturedly jostle to buy everything from fresh fish and vegetables to alcohol and luxury goods like silks and watches. These are carried overland by bicycle fleet from Thailand, while officials apparently look the other way.
Rice, the principal crop in Kampuchea, could reach self-sufficiency levels this year if the weather remains reasonable, according to a United Nations report.
During the Pol Pot years, the traditional dry season crop was abolished. Only the wet crop was planted and most of that harvest was confiscated by the government to feed the army or be sold to buy military hardware.
But even if the dry season crop is good, a critical period could arrive next September. The government, however, has started buying up surplus, has started buying up surplus rice from the farmers at a price close to that of the free market. The farmers are allowed control over their harvests and are now obliged to sell their produce to the state. In addition, relief organisations have continued sending necessary aid since they were allowed in to help combat rampant malnutrition.
The Mekong River provides the focus for rural Kampuchea. Life along its banks are currently good with plenty to eat, including fresh fish. But the people there will return to their home areas during the monsoon season when the river floods the rice paddies and drowns this temporary village.