Mutual needs tie squatters to mainstream

By Elliot Ambrose

In a squatter village in Siem Reap, a man crouches next to a broken down bicycle, purposefully tinkering with the gears and spinning the tires while children run and play in the muddy streets around him. Safe from the midday sun in the shade of his home, he works slowly, surrounded by several wrecked motorbikes and bicycles that await his attention.

Just miles away from his calculated repairs, life takes on a different pace. Motorbikes speed by and tuk tuk drivers beckon to shoppers and pedestrians to offer their services while vendors insistently try to persuade potential buyers in the marketplace.

For inhabitants of the squatter village, money and resources are limited and, often times, residents must seek out work in the nearby business and hotel districts of Siem Reap in order to pay for the costs of living that cannot be covered by farming and agriculture.

The practice of repairing bicycles and motorbikes provides a somewhat steady flow of work for some residents. Motorbikes are used for the vast majority of travel and delivery in Siem Reap and tuk tuk drivers are the preferred choice for tours among foreign visitors. The ability to supply maintenance for such vehicles gives inhabitants in the village the opportunity to benefit from a key component of business in Siem Reap and earn a living.

While the deliberate bicycle repairs of a squatter village resident may seem greatly separated from the hurried and bustling marketplace scene, a mutual need ties the two worlds together and provides a unique exception to the factors that make them different.

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