Chapey artist Kong Nay plays the instrument at the Cambodian Living Arts Association in Phnom Penh yesterday. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon
Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon The Phnom Penh Post, Thu, 1 December 2016
After two unsuccessful attempts to have the musical artform chapey dong veng recognised by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage, the third time proved the charm yesterday as it not only earned the status but was added to the urgent safeguarding list, making funding available to the government to apply towards its preservation.
The decision – made public via Twitter – was taken yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by the Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which met there this week.
The Cambodian traditional art form involves the playing of a three-stringed, long-necked, lute-like instrument while singing lyrics that can be a poetic telling of folklore as well as educational, satirical, and even a form of social commentary “I’m very happy for us,” Makara Hong, UNESCO national program officer for intangible cultural heritage in Phnom Penh, said upon hearing the news yesterday.
The status of urgent safeguard is reserved for heritage items that “may disappear” very soon, Hong explained. “It means the government should take urgent measures to safeguard the intangible cultural item.”
Indeed, the Cambodian Living Arts Association (CLAA), which took part in the application to have chapey recognised, is in the process of scouring the country for surviving “masters” of the instrument, of which there may be as
few as 20.
Chea Sophat points to his old rice field earlier this month in Chroy Changvar, after it was filled with sand in preparation for the OCIC development on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Hong Menea
Ananth Baliga and Touch Sokha The Phnom Penh Post, Thu, 1 December 2016
Chea Sophat stood on the gravel embankment of a road as he pointed to what was once his rice field, an unfenced, 4,000-square-metre waterlogged plot with a handful of buffaloes wallowing in the mud.
Across the Tonle Sap river, Phnom Penh was celebrating the festivities of the Water Festival – longboat races, music concerts, an appearance by the King – but on Chroy Changvar, 63-year-old Sophat was consumed by worry.
“The land was used for farming before the company filled it with sand. Now I cannot use it,” he said, pointing to mounds of sand scattered around his plot that have destroyed the land’s ability to drain.
Passing motorbikes and cars tossed up clouds of cement dust and sand on the nearby road being constructed for what has been dubbed the “City of the Future”.
Sophat’s land is in the process of being seized by the Phnom Penh Municipality to facilitate the development of the $1.6 billion Chroy Changvar satellite city. The 387-hectare development promises modern condominium and villa residences, a sports stadium, a business district and even a new bridge and rail system connecting it with the city.
The project extends north of the Chroy Changvar roundabout, and is nestled between National Road 6 and the Tonle Sap riverbank. However, as with many large development projects, a number of villages sit on the proposed site, and residents are now locked in a land dispute with City Hall. The dispute’s roots are more than 20 years old.
In 1994, the government banned the construction of homes on the land, with then-first prime minister Norodom Ranariddh officially designating the site for development two years later.
But during the 1998 election campaign, Prime Minister Hun Sen promised that landowners who had lived on the site for at least five years would not be evicted. He reiterated the promise in a 2002 speech intended to calm eviction fears at the time.
A Chroy Changvar district resident walks through the OCIC development site earlier this year, as workers clear land to make way for the controversial satellite city on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Sreng Meng Srun
While some villagers – those living 100 metres or less from National Road 6 and the banks of the Tonle Sap – have reaped the benefits of this promise and have been excluded from the project site, Sophat and some 200 families residing within the development zone have not been so lucky.
“City Hall is like a parent to us villagers, but this parent does not care about its children,” Sophat said. “How can they force us to accept this when they are wrong?”
In September, City Hall issued villagers on the peninsula a final ultimatum: Either part with 90 percent of the land they now occupy, or accept $15 per square metre. OCIC, in its project prospectus aimed at would-be buyers, pegged the land price at an average of $600 per square metre.
Time is up
Months of meetings and negotiations have seen little progress towards an amicable compromise. And since a November 14 deadline to accept the offer passed, uncertainty has hung over residents of the peninsula.
When Sophat rides around the peninsula on his motorbike, he always keeps a bag bursting with documents at his side. Rifling through the documents for reporters, he removed land certificates issued by local authorities recognising the owners of the land and tax invoices. (more…)
People make their way through floodwaters in Menchey district’s Boeung Tompun commune on Tuesday after heavy morning rains hit the capital. Hong Menea
Cristina Maza and Touch Sokha The Phnom Penh Post, Thu, 24 November 2016
Phnom Penh’s infrastructure must be urgently improved if the city is to prepare for the coming population boom and the worst impacts of climate change, speakers said yesterday at a conference on urban development organised by the Czech non-profit People in Need.
As climate change affects the ability of rural populations to make a living, the capital’s population will continue to grow steadily, People in Need’s disaster management and risk reduction program manager Tep Sokha told the audience.
An increase in rainfall, meanwhile, is making agricultural work less viable, and big development projects, such as large hydropower dams, will continue to displace people from their land.
And as the population grows, severe flooding, fires, traffic accidents and waste management problems will become even more pressing issues.
“Tens of thousands of households will be affected by climate change,” Sokha said. “People always say that at the Year of the Snake, we will have a big rain – so, every 10 years. But now we see that 2011 was the biggest rain in 100 years, it’s getting worse and worse all the time.”
Many of Phnom Penh’s communes lack a comprehensive land-use plan to deal with the changes, and about 12 percent of the city still lacks basic latrines.
Also speaking at the conference, Fouad Bendimerad, of the Earthquake Mega Cities Initiative, noted that poor people are particularly at risk of losing everything during a disaster.
“There are no insurance policies for the poor. They aren’t there to cover you if you lose your livelihood,” said Bendimerad, who noted he himself had worked in insurance for 11 years. “The government has to provide a safety net for the poor.”
A 2015 report by People in Need found that “many urban poor settlements in Phnom Penh are located in disaster prone areas such as riverbanks, lakes and garbage disposal sites”.
Speaking to reporters at the conference yesterday, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Eang Ony said the city is working to solve land management, traffic, sewage and rainwater drainage issues.
City Hall is also working with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency to complete a 2017-2035 master plan for Phnom Penh, he said.
“We are working on things like installing more canals and trying to re-erect the dikes around Phnom Penh,” Ony said in an interview. “We’re going to renovate all of the canals around Phnom Penh.”
For your own sake, you should let go and move on.
When you get hurt, it is not only the other person at fault, it is also your ignorance and your naivety. You have not been intelligent enough, or intuitive enough to avoid it, or move out of it. y. ~Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
A resident of Koh Kong’s Dang Tong commune holds one of his fighting cocks under his arm on Monday. Shaun Turton
Shaun Turton and Phak Seangly The Phnom Penh Post, Wed, 23 November 2016
After nearly 10 minutes of pitched battle, both fighting cocks were clearly worn down.
The handlers brought the birds back to the middle of the caged ring during a fight earlier this year on the grounds of CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat’s now largely deserted Safari Park.
A piece of clear plastic, placed between the birds so they could stare-off and muster some aggression, was spattered with blood, which spewed from the metal-spur-inflicted wounds.
A crowd of about 100 people – mostly middle-aged men, but including some women and children – began to shout as the fight was restarted once again, the roar rising with every strike.
“I think I’m going to lose,” said tuk-tuk driver Vanna, who bet $5 on the “blue” contender (identified by a coloured tag around his ankle), which was considered an underdog given that his “red” opponent was a few hundred grams heavier.
But, he added, “The bigger birds don’t always win. It’s difficult to tell.”
Though Prime Minister Hun Sen proclaimed cockfighting illegal in 2009, like many rules in the Kingdom, there are exceptions.
Business tycoon and ruling party Senator Yong Phat is one of those. (more…)
A labourer holds recently harvested peppercorns at a plantation in Ratanakkiri province last year. Pha Lina
Cam McGrath and Cheng Sokhorng The Phnom Penh Post, Wed, 23 November 2016
A local subsidiary of a South Korean confectionary giant is investing $40 million to develop what it claims will be the world’s largest pepper plantation on a sprawling 1,000-hectare estate in eastern Cambodia, a company executive said yesterday.
Welt Bio Co Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sam Kwang Food, has already planted pepper on 120 hectares of a 350-hectare plot in Mondulkiri province, and will cultivate the remainder of the plot next year.
Sister company Brise Bio Co Ltd recently purchased the adjacent 650 hectares of land that Welt Bio is preparing for cultivation.
Hojin Yi, director of Welt Bio, said the company was watching commodity spot prices closely, and projections would determine what crop eventually gets planted.
“We will plant pepper or maybe coffee on this land,” he said. “But right now, pepper is still more profitable.”
Welt Bio has also planted pepper on 35 hectares in Tboung Khmum province’s Memot district, with the first harvest expected sometime next year.
According to Yi, the company will produce about 20,000 tonnes of pepper – or about 5 percent of global production – once the full 1,000 hectares under cultivation is ready for harvest sometime around 2020.
Sam Kwang Food has earmarked $40 million for its Cambodian pepper project, with construction of a 4,200-square-metre processing factory at the Mondulkiri site expected to begin early next year. (more…)