Sopheap Chak

Riding the wave of change in Cambodia

Category: Enviromnment (page 1 of 6)

A nature of love and a must to conserve: Cambodia’s Chi Phat Eco-tourism

People would need a space for an escape from their routine life and environment sometimes. So did I when I managed to have a weekend escape with my partner in late August 2014 to Koh Kong province where this turned to be the greatest escape weekend ever in our lives. However it was not a really proper escape as when you would suddenly met the person you have known: I met a participant attending blogfestasia—in which I co-organized in 2012—on the mini-bus and he just sit next to me. Our conversation started with where and what was our plan to do in Koh Kong province. Another newly met middle-age man sitting after him started to jump in our conversation about tourist spots and his community work as Areng community activist. I was first thinking in my head: What an escape I had now, as this was a familiar discussion in almost day-to-day operation!

Suddenly the man introduced us to visit Chi-Phat community. Without any clue of this area but an Eco-tourism spot that managed by community, we did not think long but thanked him for guiding us the location:

It was a bout an hour drive from Sre Ambel toward to Koh Kong province and there will be sign a long the national road noting “Community-based Eco-tourism, Chi Phat”. Then we could take motor-taxi or boat to reach the area. We took motor-taxi that would take 30-45 minutes depending on road condition after the rain for example. After that we need to cross a small canal which it just took us few minutes. Then, it is about 500 meter where the community-based office is located and they could explain us further about the sites and plan together the spot visits. A two or three night-stay is recommended. Find out more the accommodation means, which they offer alternative and interesting affordable choices.

Here I came to stay at a very nice bungalow:

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A great stay at Chi Phat Bungalow (Photo by the Author)

A great stay at Chi Phat Bungalow (Photo by the Author)

There were many tourist spots but I could only visit few of them given my accidental plan that allowed only a night stay there. Yet, it is still the worthwhile adventure ever. We had done hiking in the forest to see the beauty of many waterfalls:

Chhay Khpus in Chi-Phat Eco-tourism. Chhay mean 'waterfall' for Chi-Phat residents. (photo by author).

Chhay Khpus in Chi-Phat Eco-tourism. Chhay mean ‘waterfall’ for Chi-Phat residents. (photo by author).

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Then we could do another adventure on the motorbike to O-malou waterfall and at some point we had to stop and walk along the motorbike as the road condition would not allow and I feel it would be best to do hiking (yet it is a bit far as it took us more than an hour). There I called it a hidden beauty waterfall.

O-malou Waterfall, the hidden beauty. (photo by author) DSC_1265 DSC_1243 DSC_1215 DSC_1210

I could not help myself to be trapped under this hidden beauty and amazed at the combination nature of love as this ecosystem complement and treat each other well to make a lively creature on earth. Having seen this and aware of many illegal logging and natural resource destruction which some were under the so-called claim of development (that environmental and social impact assessment were often neglected and conducted in a secret manner), I encourage everyone to visit the place and join hand with communities to support their force in protecting and promoting the nature, such as save the Areng Valley for example, so that it could return us back with healthy life and our children could have the chance to live with these remaining natures. I could see the potential model of Eco-tourism where it could generate income for government as well as the support directly to communities and such model shall be repeated in other places for the better off for both nature and people.

Find out more and how to contact Chi-Phat community via http://www.chi-phat.org/ (the same for http://www.ecoadventurecambodia.com)

Human rights, lest we forget

July 2014 Human Rights Spotlight: Human rights, lest we forget
(published on analysis and op-ed of the Phnom Penh Post, 29 July 2014)
Mam Sonando (centre), the owner of the independent Beehive radio station and a prominent government critic
Mam Sonando (centre), the owner of the independent Beehive radio station and a prominent government critic, and other activists run as military police officers disperse a demonstration in Phnom Penh in January. AFP

 

The end of the boycott of the National Assembly by the Cambodia National Rescue Party is a welcome development. The fact that both parties were able to finally come to the table and settle their disagreements should be welcomed. However, we cannot become complacent just because Cambodia’s political crisis has been signed away with a promise of reform of the National Election Commission.

Electoral reform is important in any country where election irregularities have been noted, and it is crucial to Cambodia’s democratic development – no one can deny that. But electoral reform alone will not solve Cambodia’s other crisis: the human rights crisis.

Over the past year, the human rights situation has continued to deteriorate, with people’s fundamental rights and freedoms being slowly stripped away. We must ensure that we keep this at the forefront and that we push both political parties to work towards greater protection of human rights.

So as we welcome the end of the political deadlock, we cannot forget that there still has been no satisfactory investigation into why so many people were killed and injured by security forces during protests and why victims of police violence are being denied their right to justice.

We cannot forget that journalists continue to be targeted for reporting on controversial stories on a daily basis; that defamation suits are repeatedly used to silence those who dare to speak out; and that online freedom is increasingly at risk.

We cannot forget that across Cambodia, women, the LGBT community and minorities are discriminated against in their communities and by the authorities; that the shockingly high rate of violence against women continues to keep them from reaching their potential.

We cannot forget that Cambodia’s judiciary continues to bend to the Cambodian People’s Party’s political interests, which may be exacerbated by the three recently passed laws on judicial reform; that all too often, courts of law are used to protect the wealthy and powerful, and all too rarely to render justice.

We cannot forget that garment factory workers are still not earning enough to be able to live in dignity; that employers continue to take advantage of poorly worded labour and union laws and of weak enforcement mechanisms to maintain deplorable working conditions and violate union rights.

We cannot forget that thousands of Cambodians have been evicted from their land to make way for commercial and development projects that they will most likely not benefit from; that those who have been evicted are still waiting for real compensation and solutions.

Forgetting that this human rights crisis is very much alive and well will only enable those who benefit from it to continue violating human rights with impunity. It will continue to hold Cambodia’s development back, as the majority of the population continues to see little or even no improvements in their living conditions or in their ability to benefit from Cambodia’s economic growth.

None of this means that we should forget electoral reform. But we should remember that electoral reform is not just about replacing the NEC’s members – it’s also about reforming the way that political parties campaign, so that elections become about policies as opposed to rhetoric. It’s also about eradicating corruption to ensure that voter lists cannot be altered to suit political interests and that legitimate voters are not turned away at the polls.

As we reflect on the political deal that has just been made, we must remember that there is still so much to be done to ensure that Cambodia becomes a place where the protection of human rights becomes a reality and not just a dream, and that democracy finally takes hold. We must pressure both political parties to work together towards ending this human rights crisis. We must ensure that they work with civil society to ensure that new laws, new policies and new institutions are designed to safeguard human rights and not to erode them further. Only when our legal framework is strengthened and the rule of law made a national priority will we see an improvement.

Chak Sopheap is the executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights

Boeng Kak Investor Dismisses Ethics in Name of Business

(This is a letter to editor, published on July 1st, 2014. “Reprinted with the permission of The CAMBODIA DAILY.”)

On June 25, the private firm buying 1.35 hectares in Phnom Penh’s contentious Boeng Kak lake neighborhood claimed, incredibly, to have no knowledge of the site’s internationally recognized land dispute (“Firm Buying Boeng Kak Land Claims No Knowledge of Evictions,” June 26).

D’Lotus Development, a subsidiary of the Singapore-based firm HLH Group, is buying the land from Shukaku Inc., which in 2007 won a 99-year lease to 133 hectares of the Boeng Kak lake area in central Phnom Penh. About 3,000 families have now been forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for the firm’s development project.

HLH Group’s CEO and executive deputy chairman, Johnny Ong Bee Haut, who denied knowledge of the land dispute in an interview, has been working in Cambodia for the past six years. It is extremely hard to imagine a scenario in which Mr. Ong would have been able to remain ignorant of such a high profile and controversial land dispute.

The international response to the case of Boeng Kak Lake has been remarkable. In 2010, the World Bank stated it would suspend funding to Cambodia until the Boeng Kak conflict had been resolved. The numerous high-profile protests that have followed the evictions, which have been violently suppressed by the authorities, have been widely reported by local and international media.

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights state that in all contexts, business enterprises should “comply with all applicable laws and respect internationally recognized human rights, wherever they operate.”

Shukaku has clearly violated residents’ land rights by acquiring land while residents claimed possession rights, filling the lake with sand, and causing serious flooding and damage to many homes.

It is clear that if HLH Group completes the purchase, it would be complicit with the contraventions of Cambodian law and the long list of rights violations that Shukaku has committed. Even if by some miracle Mr. Ong had managed to remain ignorant of the dispute during his six years in Cambodia, he and the rest of HLH Group had a responsibility to have known before agreeing to purchase the land. It is clear that HLH Group is dismissing ethics in the name of business.

Chak Sopheap, executive director, Cambodian Center for Human Rights

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