Post Mortem

Anthropological museum for money

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 10/13/2020 12:47:08 PM IST

 The modern tourism industry operates by objectifying humans. With the financial power of the tourists, poor people in host countries are regarded as mere instruments and means of service and entertainment. The poor are not perceived as human beings with their dignity and autonomy but are seen as objects to be exploited. In many parts of the world, some people or communities are made as anthropological museums by the rich to earn money from naive tourists. I had the privilege of visiting the floating village, Chong Khneas in Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia. The families living there are close to 1000 and make their living mainly by fishing. At one glance, one will be fascinated by seeing people living in floating houses, traveling to floating schools, eating at floating restaurants, and shopping in floating markets! Perhaps it is fascinating for one day or a few hours, but not for a lifetime. Fishes and reptiles can live in water, but not human beings. But people are forced to live there for life. 

One will see hundreds of mini-tour buses lined up outside the village, with salesmen/women selling tacky souvenirs, and many restaurants and hotels around, especially Korean restaurants. Tourists come in big numbers to have a gaze of their fellow human beings living in the floating village. It is inhuman to treat human beings that way. This is called an anthropological museum. Human museums are created intentionally by the Cooperate houses and the rich manipulators for earning money. Tourists go there to stare at them. People are kept in the village like a showcase for sale and tourists take pictures of them as if they are not human beings. This is called the objectification of humans. We do not realize that it is hard to live on water for life. One can only imagine the difficulties of living on the water. Young, old, children need space for living and recreation. They cannot grow any food in the lake and so they live in abject poverty. 12 percent of the children die before the age of five due to the tough living conditions, the lack of medical care, and malnourishment. The annual income of households on the lake is under $500. Who are these people? There are 700,000 ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia, a country that doesn’t consider them as citizens even though they’ve lived in the country for generations.Most of the ethnic Vietnamese arrived in Cambodia during the French Protectorate (1863- 1953) to work in administration positions and the countryside. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge took power and the Vietnamese were forcibly deported to Vietnam or killed. During the exile, most of them lost the papers that proved their Cambodian origin. On their return in the 1980s, they were considered migrants and became stateless.Without papers, ethnic Vietnamese cannot buy land and most of them live in floating villages in Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, located deep inside Cambodia. Without papers, ethnic Vietnamese cannot find jobs on the mainland and many of them face unemployment.” Source: Al Jazeera, 2014 “Most ethnic Vietnamese cannot buy land so they live in floating villages in Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest lake.” Source: Al Jazeera, 2014

 All the tourists have to pay $20 as an entrance fee for a two-hour long tour, yet none of the money is given back to the community that is being toured. People in floating villages do not receive anything. The boats are owned and operated by a private firm (VCD Boat Association) and all the ticket sales go directly to the private company, but not to the people who are living there. Since the tour operation is privately owned, the local people have no say or control over who comes and goes and do not get any financial benefit. Local people living in the lake are objectified as strange human beings to generate income for the rich manipulator.

Similarly, the Jarawa tribe of the Andaman Islands is treated like animals in a zoo. Although the human safari is banned, the tour operators with the slogans,  “People of the jungle”, the “wild tribes”,  promote tours of the Jarawa tribe. Thousands of tourists go there to see fellow human beings. The tourists are instructed not to throw food or clothes at them, or try and establish contact with them. But it is perfectly okay to have a photo. In the name of safeguarding their culture, fellow humans are sold for tourism. The whole tribe is being commercialized for earning revenue. It is is an inhuman act, denial of human rights, and it is called the objectification of humans for commercial purposes.

It is an inhuman practice and it is appalling to know that it exists in modern society. There is no place for the objectification of poor people even by the law. All human beings are created in God’s image, and hence they are the subjects of their life and not objects of exploitation. Any practice or system that portrays human beings as objects, commodities is a travesty of human values and an insult to human beings.  

Wati Longchar

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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