A remote region of Cambodiafs northeast, Ratanakiri is unique. Its characteristic red earth lines roads and paths bordered with lush greenery and rolling hills. Life is simple, farmers till the earth and work the rice paddies with hand tools. Villagers live in hand-built stilt wooden houses. At night, closely knit village communities gather around the fire and share a warm meal and homemade rice wine.
There are no highways, only simple pot-holed dirt roads. During the rainy season, villages soon become inaccessible. Food and housing do not fulfill the populationfs needs. Electricity and running water are a rare commodity, if not luxury. Many villagers are also deprived of basic education. If not for a matter of basic survival, men, women and children together must work the fields day after day. The constraints of this agrarian lifestyle also limits contact and awareness of the world outside the village.
Bordering Laos and Vietnam, the region also hosts a considerable number of ethnic minorities, who make up 80% of the local population. Strife and discrimination has befallen Laotian and Vietnamese refugees as well. One of the most beautiful regions of Cambodia, Ratankiri is nevertheless also one of its most underdevelopped. Lacking basic infrastructure, where highways are no more than simple pot-holed dirt roads, the entire province is rural in nature.
Ratanakiri keeps many secrets. Its primordial forests bordering Vietnam, are also home to 12 highland tribes the Khmer Loeu. These tribes people have often had little contact with the rest of the world, and have maintained much of their traditions. In Ratanakirifs hills, the Tampuan, Krung, Jarai and Brou tribes farm with the slash and burn method, hunt with crossbows and poison darts, practice animism. Krung women, often bare-breasted, wear sarongs, while Brou women tattoo their faces and wear heavy ivory tusk earrings.
Though peaceful at mind, history has not spared them numerous tragedies. The bombings of American B-52fs during the Second Indochina War devastated an important part of the hilltribesf farmlands and decimated much of the population as well as hunted animals. During the communist buildup, the Khmer Rouge hid in the mountains, only to return to Ratanakiri for a real carnage of over half the tribal population once the Pol Pot regime gained power.
Today, less than 60,000 tribespeople remain hidden in the hills. Their numbers are constantly on the decrease, with a high mortality rate due mostly to lack of basic medical care. Difficulties in childbirth, malaria and diarrhea are just some common causes of death.
But villagers try as best they can to keep a positive outlook. Smile and laughter are often quick to follow. While visitors are few, due in most part to its limited access and well-kept secret, locals share a warm welcoming tradition.
As the world around them changes, the people of Ratanakiri are in danger of being taken advantage of, brutalized, or of losing their lands or livelihoods. Some of them, eager and intelligent entrepreneurs, choose to connect with the outside, and bring new health-related, social and economic opportunities into their small, previously isolated communities.
Ratanakiri.com is a meeting place for the people of Ratanakiri and the rest of the world. Through the marketplace,villagers sell their products and traditional crafts directly to the world's consumers. Witness some of the local success stories of various economic, educational and health projects. On the news page, read about some of the latest happenings. Through renewed features on our site, we aim to faciliate communication not only between villages, but also between the people of Ratanakiri and the rest of the world.
Your ideas, support, and participation are most welcome.
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