An Interview with Tene Dara

Trip Start Dec 31, 2004
Trip End Apr 22, 2005

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, January 22, 2005

His name is Tene Dara, a bookseller from the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia. For years after becoming disabled Dara was a begger but now with the help of the Angkor Association for the Disabled he has his own business. For most land mine victims AAD is their best shot at getting away from the world of begging and it gives them a tremedous sense of pride and reinstates their dignity.

He lives with and supports his five children on the ground level of a two story ramshakle house with roughly 30 other people. Currently he and his wife are seperated, she lives in Phnom Penh. In 1990 on a mountain top while fighting the remants of the still fierce Khmer Rouge Dara stepped on a land mine and ended up loosing both his legs. His stomach is pock-marked from the schrapnel and a wide gash of a scar runs several inches above his naval. My ex pat friend Gary took me to meet him at his house down a dirt road just a short tuk-tuk ride from my hotel.

How long have you been selling books? Only for 15 days for about 10 hours a day. Before this I was begging at the Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh and my wife was working at a drink shop.

What's your profit margin? This book [holds up an Angkor Wat guidebook]cost $25.00 in the US but I sell it for $10.00 and if I sell this book I can eat for one day.

Who are the nicest tourists? People from the USA, England, Holland, France.

Who are the most hateful tourists? It's more the person than the country they come from.

What do you eat for breakfast? Coffee and Chinese noodles and maybe a sweet cake. I need strength because it's hard work.

What do you think about Americans? So many people. Some good. I worked for an NGO (non-government organization) making wheelchairs from 1993 to 1996.

What do you think about your new king? He's good for the people of Cambodia.

And what do you think of the old king? Same same.

Have you been outside of Cambodia? Yes, some Vietnamese took me to Bangkok to beg. I begged on Sukumvit Road. They took half of what I made.

On average what would you make in a day in Bangkok? Sometimes around 1,500 baht (aproximately $37 USD) and the Vietnamese got half of it.

What's the one thing that you dream about? I want plastic legs so I can walk.

What did you think when Pol Pot died? I was in Thailand and I didn't know if it was true. I was happy.

What would you like people to know about Cambodia? We have the Internet and people can learn about us. People think only of going to Thailand and Vietnam --they don't come here as much. Cambodia is not dangerous anymore. Everything is very good here now.


To learn more about ADD there is a website that is currently a work in progress:
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