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Trees Planted on Day of Peace in Cambodia

Chambok, Cambodia - UPF Cambodia observed the International Day of Peace in the village of Chambok in Kompong Speu, which belongs to the Kirirom National Park on September 22.

With the cooperation of NGO Mlup Baitong, 25 student volunteers from the Medical University, Royal University of Phnom Penh, and other universities promoted sustainable development of the community by planting 100 trees and giving donations for lunch and a children’s performance. Chambok village is located 70km from Phnom Penh, and the trip takes two and half hour by bus.

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Mr. Touch Morn, a representative of the Chambok Commune Council and Kirirom National Park, gave welcome speeches and reported about the situation of the forest. Mr. OM Sophana, a representative of Mlup Baitong, talked about the importance of sustainable forest management.

Mrs. Masumi F. Schmittat, Secretary General of UPF-Cambodia, explained the purpose of the International Day of Peace established by the United Nations General Assembly 30 years ago. She mentioned that the group had traveled from Phnom Penh in order to understand more about the forest situation in Cambodia and take responsibility to preserve the valuable nature.

Chambok village was emptied two times, in 1979 and 1989, due to the civil wars. The villagers came back in 1998 and cut down trees for a living. Mlup Baitong assisted villagers to establish the community in order to make living together by utilizing natural resources wisely instead of cutting everything down until nothing is left. There are 1000 hectares of land, but only 200 hectares were useful. Conflicts occurred among the villagers over distribution of land. Also, they believed the old tradition of burning field as a good method to get rain. Therefore, there were fewer and fewer useful fields. After Mlup Baitong offered training how to develop the community and get income from eco-tourism, there were fewer conflicts. They have now30 home stay houses, forest guides, a community restaurant, and child performance team.

We were led to the forest, where no trees are standing but only bush. Mr. Sophana taught volunteers how deep they should dig and explained that tree's roots should be put into water before planting. Volunteers were divided into five teams and worked as a team. As rain started during planting, we could not complete all the tasks. A team of youth from the village said they would complete it.

We moved to the community center where we had lunch cooked by the community cooking team. Just before the lunch, we offered one minute of silent prayer for the victims of conflict. Everyone was grateful for the peace that exists in Cambodia, in contrast with the past.

After filling our stomach, we listened to the presentation by Mr. Touch about how they were able to develop their community and achieve their goal. Five village girls performed the Apsara dance, invoking a blessing on visitors, and sang two original songs which express gratitude toward heaven and the visitors.

A volunteer student, Mr. Kim Ratank, said, “I am happy to see villagers being able to manage the community well by themselves now. Even though our contribution is small, it will be an encouragement for villagers.”

The day concluded with taking group photos in front of the community center.

For more reports about International Day of Peace 2012 programs click here.

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