“One unique feature of the new Cambodia is that money has been withdrawn from general circulation. Instead, goods are exchanged through a sophisticated barter system.
I got an explanation of how this works at the Meas cooperative near Kompong Cham, one of the few we were allowed to visit. The 300 residents of this cooperative grow rice in nearby fields and weave cloth for brightly colored checked scarves and sarongs.
Since this cooperative produces more rice than its residents can eat, the rice is ‘sold’ to the central government in Phnom Penh. The cooperative recieves a credit for the rice- 4 riel per ton- and uses those credits to produce things it cannot produce such as gasoline for its tractors.
The accounts of each cooperative are kept on a national registry in Phnom Penh, an offical told us.
‘That is not so unusual,’ he said. ‘In your country you don’t use money often. You use credit cards and checks.’
Cooperatives like Preah Meas are administered by committees. These generally have three members with one person acting as a president.
At Le Bo cooperative in Takeo, we were shown what officials hope will become the norm for Cambodia in the future.
It seemed to be almost entirely self sustaining. Besides its clean huts, the cooperative had a large bamboo chicken coop, neat vegetable plots around the homes and, we were told, a pigpen farther out in the fields.
Neat the communal dining hall and patio was a foundry where agricultural implements were produced. Inventiveness was in evidence everywhere. One man was peddling a bicycle bellows while another melted down brass from spent American ammunition casings. ”