One Step Beyond – Cambodia – Veal Thom
Veal Thom is inhabited by civilians and soldiers who have had accidents with landmines or UXO, or were otherwise injured during the war. The village was founded in 2000, and is close to a main road leading to Sihanoukville, about 100 km west of Phnom Penh.
The Cambodian government gave 2,300 hectares of land to the village's Mayor Touch Soeu Ly – and he, in turn, sells 3 hectare parcels to families in need, for a symbolic price of $1-$10. The land, according to Cambodian law, then becomes the sole property of its new owners. It is large enough to sustain a farm, including a grazing area for animals, and it's a fair exchange for the families, who, in return for their subsidized purchase, donate time and labour to the village project.
Through property ownership, basic survival and a means of livelihood for some of the "poorest" families (as Mayor Touch Soeu Ly has identified them) are guaranteed. At the time of our visit, around 300 families (approx. 2,500 people) were living in Veal Thom. It can accommodate up to 600.