The first lady is traveling to Cambodia from Japan, arriving in Siem Reap, the gateway city to the famed temples of Angkor Wat, Friday. Obama is in Cambodia to promote her international “Let Girls Learn” initiative, which seeks local solutions to the problem of low education of girls in 11 countries.
For most, life around Siem Reap continued as usual early Friday. Monks woke and prayed. Farmers woke and tended their fields. And souvenir- and book-sellers, many of them children who have dropped out of school, woke and went to the temples to hawk their wares.
Some, like Prum Reaksmey, 17, have found a way to do work and stay in school. She wakes at 5 am and works at the temple selling books, before heading to Hun Sen Siem Reap High School in the afternoon, only to return to work in the evening.
“My job is simple like that,” she said.
She earns between $3 and $10 a day for her family, which has eight members. She is only in the eighth grade, but she says the routine is getting hard, and she may, like many other girls, soon drop out of school. “I am not good, maybe because I am focusing on my selling job,” she said.
Meanwhile, police in Siem Reap say they are pulling extra duty and will be on call 24 hours a day while the first lady is in town. That includes keeping the roads clear and staying alert, Meas Vannak, deputy chief of public order for the Siem Reap police, told VOA Khmer.
And while few Siem Reap residents knew of the first lady’s visit, many welcomed the news that she was arriving in an effort to improve education.
“It’s great to hear that,” said Rann Roth, a 20-year-old, who performs massage for tourists near the city’s Night Market. “I quit school because my family was poor. I wish she could help me get back to school.”