• River Wetlands

The Relationship Between The Hopes of Old People & Young People

Updated: Dec 27, 2020


Along the Sesan River, at the outskirts of Ban Lung, lies the village of Tiem Leu - home of the Krung[1] people. Being almost 50km away from the nearest city[2], Tiem Leu is accessible via poorly built roads. This means that the Krung people are heavily dependent on the Sesan River[3], and thus live rural lives. However, with upstream river developments[4] devastating the river’s biodiversity and severely affecting the villagers’ livelihoods, the expansive reach of modernity that has gradually intertwined into Tiem Leu, representing a new hope amidst the worries. Together with the recent availability of formal education[5], this study hopes to, through the lens of the everyday life of the villagers[6], understand how these factors have carved out dreams for the young as much as it has shaped the worries of the old. As Ratanakiri reporters, we attempt to investigate if the above factors did result in differences between the dreams, worries and values between the young and old caused by splintering everyday life experiences.


Figure 1: The framework of this investigative study

We distinguished the Krung people into four age groups[7] in our attempt to analyze how river changes, education and modernity have shaped each generation's daily habits and behaviours and through which, understand their hopes, worries and even possibly values systems. Figure 1 conceptualizes these factors mentioned. Based on past research, we are expecting a prevalent practice of child care and the care of older people[8][9] where the young assumes significant caring responsibility at an earlier age[10][11]. On this note, we would expect there to be influenced practices of social control by adults to regulate and restrict young people’s conduct and everyday life[12][13]. From our investigation, we drew out themes of environmental changes & modernity, everyday life of people, identity and adulthood.


Image 1: Conducting Interviews from Krung to Khmer to English with the help of a local teacher and Cambodian buddies

Image 2: Children unleashing their creativity through a drawing activity

We elicited the help of a local to overcome the language barrier because some locals did not speak Khmer, but their own indigenous Krung language. Through her, it became easier to build rapport, in our face-to-face interviews. When working with children, we employed a more delicate approach by using active imagination[14] and geographic visualization[15][16]. This consideration of affect and emotions, and their intersection with geographic visualization offers the children a way of articulation and representing experiences and emotions towards the Krung identity, their hopes for the future and everyday life experiences without facing the stress of answering questions from an adult stranger.


Image 3: New, larger houses (fron of the left photo) compared to their indigenous houses (back of left photo) and upgraded infrastructure like the bridge and motorbikes reflect the changes within the village

Within the Tiem Leu village, we observed how basic technology is intertwined in their everyday life[17]. Modernization is slowly permeating through this village, reshaping the Krung way of life. In the past, due to its distance from the main city, exposure to technology as well as education is uncommon. Today, Non-Profit Organizations (NGOs) like the United Nations have built wells, while the government has started the first primary school in 2002. For the Krungs, education is a privilege that they do not take for granted. For farmers like Madam Janpurr, 75 years old, and Madam Doung Sanan, 65 years old, they hope education would bring opportunities to their grandchildren to work in the cities, instead of farms, with hopes that the young can return with solution that would upgrade their current living conditions[18]. As we spoke to the young, school has exposed them to such solutions. Khemi, 16 years old, spoke about his hopes to bring farming machinery into the village, whereas Ban, hopes to become a doctor, so as to bring in modern medical knowledge, an occupation which he realised was lacking in his village. As fish catch drops significantly, the villagers are relegated to a more laborious agriculture work. The more fortunate ones operate businesses, like a convenience store in the village. With motorbikes signalling an ability to travel out of the village for more varied and skilled jobs, the ease of transport out of the village attracts the younger generation to seek better paying work out of the village for financial security at home.


The loss of the Krung identity in the everyday life of the younger generation is a major cause of concern for the older generation in the village. Having seen how the developments of dams upstream has severely affected the rivers and their livelihood, all our elderly interviewees raised anxieties about how the Krung identity may also be compromised if the young people were to leave the village for an extended period of time, even if it was to find better job opportunities. They worry that external influences, especially exposure to neoliberal thoughts and individualism, would permanently reshape the young people’s way of life - where the would be more self-centered and less considerate towards their identity and culture. Many worry that Buddhism would be adopted or that the Krung customs would be ignored by eating prohibited foods[19] and worse of all a failure to practice rituals[20] or return for festivals[21].

For the younger generation, the search for jobs may see them depart from their family’s agricultural background - something that is implicit to the Krung identity[22], which for the older generation, represents a greater concern over the loss of identity. They believe that without an elderly supervision over the younger generation, traditional cultures would be lost.

Image 4: Elderly woman with her indigenous basket, foraging plants for cooking

Fortunately, the younger youths also embody a rootedness in the Krung village community. For Ban and Khemi, while they recognize the vast opportunities available outside the village, they remain very much proud of their Krung identity and hope to retain Krung practices even if they were to pursue jobs elsewhere. As mentioned, they ultimately value returning to the village, giving back with their knowledge and expertise. For them, the modernization and education did not appear to have diluted the value of the Krung identity. Instead, a sense of communitarianism is still strong within them - where dreams are not inspired and elevated by individualism, but formulated with the Krung people in mind.

For the children, though in their formative years, also exhibited strong attachments to their unique identity - sharing with us aspects of Krung identity they treasure such as doing agriculture, everyday sights in the village, religious events and practices and lastly, Krung music culture. These experiences are not easily forgotten.

Image 5: A child shared the significance of the Krung Identity meant to her - growing up in the village planting rice agriculture (left drawing) and helping with household chores (right drawing). The Krung identity is entrenched in them and not easily forgotten.


While ageing is a supposedly linear process as one biologically ages, the experience of age is not a chronological process. Instead, it depends on the social, political and economic conditions[23]. Janpurr and Laran Sil both remembers starting to work on the farm with their parents since the age of 15 and 13 respectively, in order to feed the family. This is the case for most of the elderly, as they experience an abrupt transition from childhood to adulthood. Taking over familial responsibilities is thus a symbolic indicator of this passage to adulthood.

An older youth, Ten Cheavy, teared up as she remembers the hardship of doing agriculture at a young age of 10 years old with her father, as there was no school in the village at the time. Tiem Leu Primary School built in 2002, offers an opportunity for current children to experience a different childhood transition from the older generations. Education is a significant factor influencing childhood to adulthood transition[24] because of its impact in prolonging the immediate transition, enabling children to progressively develop over time. The two younger youths, Ban and Khemi, were lucky to receive education as it has changed the trajectory of their life. Being younger siblings with greater educational support, it has allowed them to pursue dreams of becoming a doctor and teacher, both highly-skilled and better-paying jobs outside of the village. However, education in the village is still limited by poverty and lack of resources[25] in the village.

Image 6: Tiem Leu School built by NGOs in 2002, offering classes up to Grade 6


With environmental changes and modernity being inevitable forces, it has brought about contrasting values, dreams and concerns, between the young and the old as observed in their everyday life. The young hold hopes that modern technological influences and education could be integrated with traditional identity and practices, in a bid to improve living standards. For the old, as they retain ancestral jobs growing up, they worry that modernization would dilute the Krung identity like how the river’s biodiversity changed. Yet, despite their fears for the younger generation, they can be assured that despite the splintering difference in how modernity and changes to the river has affected each generation’s everyday lives, the Krung identity, for now, is still what everyone holds dear to their hearts. However, whether this would stand the test of time, remains to be seen.



  1. The Krung people is regarded as one of Cambodia’s many indigeneous ethnic minorities

  2. According to Google Maps

  3. A journey to the nearest market outside of the village would require a 2-hour journey ride to-and-fro

  4. The Yali Falls Dam in Vietnam, mainly funded by Russia, Ukraine and the World Bank, was constructed in 2000 and is located upstream of the Sesan River. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by Electrowatt, a Swiss consultancy firm, vastly failed to consider the downstream impacts the dam would have and the dam has been associated with the vast depletion of fish-count downstream

  5. Tiem Leu’s first and only school was built in 2002

  6. This includes a person’s daily habits and behavioural patterns. The everyday life of the people is an important scale of analysis which is often neglected, as argued by feminist geographers Susan Hanson and Perry Hanson (1993)

  7. This study acknowledges and hopes to account for the distinct characteristics of each age group which would influence their experiences. This study also hopes to create a diverse and visible voice for the children as well the “older youths” who are often neglected. The four age groups are namely children (under 13 years old), younger youths (13 - 18 years old), older youths (19 - 35 years old) and old people (above 55 years old). This study chose to redefine the age of childhood and youthood, differing from the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child, in recognition that any Krung above the age of 13 years old would have mostly transited to the workforce and be contributing to the household needs. It is also important to separate the “younger” youths from the “older” youths, because both groups of youths have vastly varied experiences in the Tiam Leu Village

  8. The concept of familial intergenerationality suggests that such practices are more prevalent in conditions that promotes poverty and higher morbidity

  9. Bailey, A. J., Blake, M. K., & Cooke, T. J. (2004). Migration, care, and the linked lives of dual-earner households. Environment and Planning A, 36(9), 1617.

  10. This includes the care for younger siblings and the care of older people

  11. Evans, R. (2015). Negotiating intergenerational relations and care in diverse African contexts. In R. M. Vanderbeck & N. Worth (Eds.), Intergenerational space (pp. 199–213). London: Routledge.

  12. For example, rules and regulations set in place to control the younger generation

  13. Brown, D. M. (2013). Young people, anti-social behaviour and public space: The role of community wardens in policing the ‘ASBO generation’. Urban Studies, 50(3), 538–555.

  14. Jung, C. G., & Chodorow, J. (1997). Jung on Active Imagination. Princeton University Press.

  15. Every child was tasked to close their eyes and imagine different scenarios (active imagination) before they expressed their thoughts through drawing maps of their village and their everyday life. Refer to Annex A

  16. Jung, J.-K. (2017). Affective Geovisualization and Children: Representing the Embodied and Emotional Geographies of Children. In: Skelton T., Aitken S. (eds) Establishing Geographies of Children and Young People, 381–404. doi: 10.1007/978-981-287-041-4_22

  17. This includes water pumps, wells, toilets and car battery cells fueling light bulbs and old portable CD players

  18. Some hoped that more farming machineries could be brought into the village so as to lessen the burden on physical work. With machines tending to the field, this would release the young people from worrying about the physical health of their older parents’ or grandparents, so as to focus on going to school.

  19. Prohibited foods include consumption or sale of giant gourami, yam, pumpkin and the asian water monitor as part of their religious beliefs and practices

  20. Rituals are used to inform their spirits of the various events that happen in the village.

  21. Festivals include pre- and post-harvest prayers and protip (ប្រទីប), for blessing by the spirits.

  22. Krung people living in the village work as fishermen or farmers, jobs that their ancestors did in the past.

  23. Wyn, J. & White, R. (1997). The concept of youth. In Rethinking youth (pp. 8-25). London: SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781446250297.n2

  24. Wyn J. (2015) Thinking About Childhood and Youth. In: Wyn J., Cahill H. (eds) Handbook of Children and Youth Studies. Springer, Singapore

  25. Current educational resources available in the village would only help any student to Grade 6. In addition, the school has a limited number of teachers. Subsequently, student has to travel outside of the village for further education (i.e. high school).


Draw your village

Draw what you do every day

Everyday life - Others Left: Helping with household chores Right: Going to school and helping with farming

Everyday life: Children going to school

Draw your future job and why

Dream jobs Top left to right: pilot, artist Bottom left to right: teacher, nurse

Draw what reminds you of Krung culture and why

Krung Identity 1: Agriculture-related

Left - Rice/Middle - Harvesting cashew/Right - Harvesting tools, Krung baskets

Krung Identity 2: Everyday sights and life in the village

Left - Buffaloes/Right - Chicken cage, Kapha (Krung basket; carried on the back), Papaya

Krung Identity 3: Krung Culture - Beliefs and Practices

Left - Spirit Ceremony/Middle - Krung traditional costume/Right - Girl playing instrument

Krung Identity 4: Krung Culture - Music

Left & Right: Cambodian and Krung instruments