This information quoted from The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 617
Who are the Africans in Cambodia?
Phnom Penh: In recent years, a new group of foreigners are found increasingly in Cambodia, especially in Phnom Penh: black people from Africa. Khmer people normally call white people formed any country ‘Barang’ [this Khmer word is formed mimicking the French phonetic word ‘France’ → ‘farance’ – ‘farang’ – because the French were the first Westerners which could be seen often in Cambodia]. Cambodians became used to seeing them and their way of life and behavior. Since the establishment of the French colonial protectorate 1863 [until now, there have been mainly white people who come to live and to do business in Cambodia. Now, black foreigners started to appear in Cambodia. Khmer people are more or less interested who these African people are, they attract attention from Khmer people who want to know what their work and function in Cambodia might be.
“Most of them walk in small groups, and they often meet each other at different places of business [like department stores or petrol stations], and some have their own cars like other foreigners [and Cambodians]. Sometimes, their activities along the roads show what their jobs are. For example, some wear sport suits and carry a football, so they are footballers. Some others wear proper normal clothing: they are restaurant owners, businesspeople, or English language teachers.
“How many black people are in Cambodia?
“In general, these African people rent housing in Phnom Penh, and they rarely go to other far away places in the countryside – different from Indians and people from Sri Lanka whose job it is to sell mosquito nets and second hand garments in Cambodia.
“According to the president of the Nigerian Association in Cambodia, Mr. Gabriel Ken Gadaffi, many African people are living in Cambodia, and most of them are Nigerians. Mr. Ken added that so far, there have been about 300 Nigerians who had registered as members of his association. This is only the number of names that had been listed, and this does not include those who have not registered. Besides Nigerians, some other black people came from other countries, such as Ghana, Cameroon, and Congo, but he does not know the number of those other nationals. But personally, he estimated that there are about 1,500 Africans in Cambodia, including the Nigerians.
“Some footballers were cheated by brokers
“There are many reasons that bring Africans to Cambodia. Mr. Ken – he is over 40, a lecturer who teaches at several private universities in Phnom Penh – came to Cambodia six years go. At that time he did not intend to live in Cambodia as he does now. His intention was to visit Cambodia and then to continue to a third country. But in Cambodia, having the academic degrees of a doctorate and a bachelor, and a certificate as a football instructor, he could find jobs at some schools, and then he decided to continue to live with his wife and children in Cambodia.
“While sitting and taking with a friend from Ghana in a supermarket, Mr. Pachuk Wu, a Nigerian, said that he is a businessman and had heard of the potential of the garment production in Cambodia. Therefore – during a journey to establish business contacts in Southeast Asia, he came to contact also some companies in Phnom Penh to investigate the possibility to set up a company in Cambodia, as Mr. Pachuk Wu wants to export garments to Africa.
“Many Africans are footballers, playing at different football clubs in Cambodia. They are Nigerians, Cameroonians, Ghanaeans, and Congolese. But there is a problem. Some Africans, at the time of deciding to come to Cambodia as a footballer – many Nigerians are expert footballers – had been cheated by brokers in their countries who convinced them that the job as a footballer in Cambodia could earn them high salaries. The president of the Nigerian Association, Mr. Gabriel Ken Gadaffi, explained that some companies operate as brokers and announce to recruit any footballer who want to play at football clubs in other countries. Some were told that to play football at clubs in Cambodia could earn high salaries. and they are told that the living condition in Cambodia are favorable. Together with the intention to gain experience to achieve future fame, they had finally decided to come to Cambodia.
“As an athlete and president of the Nigerian Association, Mr. Ken said that in Cambodia, payments for footballers vary depending on each club and on the capacity of each footballer. He added that their salary is between US$300 and US$1,000, but the ones who get such a high salary are not many. But with such a small salary as also mentioned it is difficult for Africans to support their living in Cambodia.
“Discrimination and difficulties in extending visas to stay in Cambodia
“The people who get a low salary, have to seek, finally, part-time jobs. Most are teaching. A small number of those who have just arrived cannot find a job in a football club. Therefore, they have to contact their family at home to ask for monetary support. Some have to borrow a little money from their friends until they can find a job. Most of them find jobs as teachers of English.
“Also, there are problems in seeking jobs. The color of their skin is a source of racial discrimination. Mr. Ken recounted that some schools and restaurants do not want black staff. Worst of all, some guesthouse owners do not want to rent rooms to them. Some leaders of schools think that if they recruit white teachers, they could have more students. Mr. Ken asked, ‘Why do some people discriminate against black people? There are good and bad people in every nation.’ Mr. Ken said that he had visited some Nigerian people at the Prey Sar Prison and there, he saw more white prisoners than blacks. He added that he does not support any dishonest black person or any criminals who have been arrested recently, and he even ticked out the names of those Nigerians to be referred to the Nigerian Embassy in Philippine [for assistance].
“Another question that Nigerian people want to ask is why it is very difficult to extend the period of staying in their visas in Cambodia. The high prices asked are not the only problem. Also, Cambodian authorities seem not to want to extend their visas. Mr. Pachuk Wu, who has just arrived in Cambodia more than one month ago, complained, ‘Why is it so difficult for us to receive an extension of the period of staying for the visa in Cambodia? Is it because we are Nigerians? He said he has to pay US$45 for one-month for staying in Cambodia.
“According to Mr. Ken, at the last day of the period permitted to stay in the visa, they have to go to a neighboring country to ask there for a visa to reenter Cambodia.
“The authorities seem to think that Nigerians are bad people. But don’t forget that because of visa problems and because of discrimination, some African businesspeople have decided to invest rather in neighboring countries and not in Cambodia.”
Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4925, 20.6.2009