THIET Chin leaves for the market at four in the morning. Having packed her basket with limes, she sets off with three other women from the village of O’Tamor. Four hours later they arrive in Banlung.
It is a familiar journey. Ever since her husband died 16 years ago, Thiet Chin has travelled to Banlung every four or five days.
“I come here when I run out of something I need for cooking,” she says.
Today, she receives 23,000 riel (US$5.70) from a market trader for the 15 kilogrammes of limes she has carried on her back all the way from her village.
Once they have bought their essential goods, the four women will set off back to the village, stopping to take lunch along the way. They should make it back before nightfall.
Thiet Chin is a Tompuon, one of the poorest minority groups in Cambodia.
Every day Tompuon women make the long trek from their villages to the provincial capital along Highway 19. They have little alternative. “I don’t have the money to buy a bicycle,” says Thiet Chin.
Now that her only son has married, Thiet Chin lives on her own. She has a small plot of land around her wooden house where she grows rice and vegetables. This is all that she has to live on, since her chickens recently died.
Her hair showing signs of grey, Thiet Chin cannot remember how old she is, but still recalls her youth.
“When I was younger, I did not even know there was a market in Banlung,” she says. Now she walks to it every time she needs something from the shop. TRANSLATION BY RANN REUY