Friday, October 31, 2008

Siam Cement delays Cambodia plant expansion

BANGKOK: Siam Cement PCL has delayed cement plant expansion in Cambodia and a new investment in Indonesia as cement demand falls due to a global economic slowdown, its cement division president said yesterday.

Thailand’s biggest industrial conglomerate also saw domestic cement consumption dropping 6%-7% this year from 25.6 million tonnes in 2007, and at least 10% next year, Pramote Techasupatkul told Reuters in an interview.

Rather than expansion, Siam Cement would focus on a 4 billion baht (US$115mil) investment plan to increase energy efficiency at its cement plants in Thailand and Cambodia, Pramote said.

“We are assessing the global situation. We have to be more prudent on spending,” he said.

The company’s domestic cement sales this year would fall to nine million tonnes, in line with the industry-wide decline, although exports would be 8.1-8.2 million tonnes, close to last year, he said.

Siam Cement has been producing cement at 80% of a full capacity of 23.2 million tonnes this year, Pramote added, but might cut production next year in response to weaker demand. – Reuters

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cambodia: First Credit Bureau Slated to Open within 18 Months

Cambodia, October 27 - With the rapid expansion of public borrowing and the global credit crisis threatening banks around the world, regulators are planning Cambodia’s first credit bureau to link the country into a national financial database. Authorities hope the new system will bring the country’s fast-growing borrowing into the regulatory fold and protect the market from runaway debt.

The system would record personal financial information and allow institutions to assess personal credit risk, said the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The IFC, a member of the World Bank group, and theNational Bank of Cambodia hope to see the bureau launched in 18 months.

“With the banking sector growing, the country needs a credit system that is up to international standards,” said Margarete Biallas, program manager for the Access to Finance IFC Advisory Services. Biallas said a two-step program would see legislation passed in the next few months, followed by consultation with financial institutions and other stakeholders. “The [credit] bureau is mostly for microfinance institutions. As they grow and expand, they are increasingly having problems with clients who don’t tell them when they have a loan at other institutions,” Biallas told the Post from Hanoi.

Borrowing has increased rapidly in Cambodia - a country where banks were almost unknown until the mid-1990s. Most growth has been in microfinance, which targets small loans to the low-income segment. Cambodia has 17 registered microfinance institutions (MFIs), serving about 767,015 borrowers with outstanding loans of USD 257 million, said Tal Nay Im, the director general of the National Bank of Cambodia. The sector has expanded at a robust 30 percent per year.

“We expect [the bureau] will be operational by the time the stock market launches in late 2009,” said Tal Nay Im in a speech delivered last week. She said the bureau “will give banks and MFIs comprehensive information on potential borrowers which they can easily access from a website.”

The new credit bureau would replace a decentralised system that has flourished in Cambodia’s microcredit market. Acleda Bank, the country’s leading MFI, said that assessing a borrower’s eligibility has been as much about determining their standing in the community as valuing their tangible assets.

Without a credit bureau, risk assessments can involve sending field officers to villages to interview a candidate’s neighbours and local commune authorities. Loans are often guaranteed through Group Loans where a number of people guarantee borrowing. The system, sometimes called Greelining, is suited for rural Cambodia where few reliable personal records exist.

But with the international credit crunch slowly spreading to the Kingdom, some experts warn that the existing system could be vulnerable and cost inefficient.

Loan overlap

Paul Luchtenburg, the CEO of Angkor Microfinance Kampuchea (AMK), said that while the current system is working to expand microcredit, the lack of a unified database leaves the credit system exposed. He warned of the risk of loan overlap where clients dishonestly borrow from multiple institutions.

“We simply don’t have enough data on loan overlap … if [loan overlap] goes too far, there is the potential for a collapse where people are paying loans off with other loans,” he said. AMK’s overlap rate is about 10 percent, defaults are minuscule at .08 percent, and 99 percent of loans are repaid on-time. But Luchtenburg said the situation could deteriorate if lending increases and the global credit crisis worsens.

One financial analyst said that a credit bureau would also bring down the cost of lending in Cambodia. “The system right now works, but it costs a lot. You have to have credit officers to assess each case. It ultimately means higher borrowing costs,” said Kang Chandararot, the head of the economics unit at the Cambodia Institute of Development Study.

“It’s not whether the current system works; it has to do with cost and market efficiency.” Acleda Bank’s John Brinsden said he supports a national credit bureau, but questions the logistics of setting it up. “The [credit bureau] will be a tremendous help with transparency and it will encourage good discipline in customers and will make life easier for banks,” he said, adding that Acleda already has an internal credit rating system.

But setting up a comprehensive credit database where none has existed before is a difficult task, said Brinsden. “My concerns for microfinance are purely logistical. The system would be dealing with large numbers of people, some without paper identification and with different spellings of names. It will be hard to compile in a database.

“I am not sure that all banks are in favour of it,” he said. Brinsden also questioned whether loan costs would drop under the credit bureau. “There are certain costs associated with giving a loan that may stay the same, even with a credit bureau.”

Cambodia to double military spending after clashes with Thailand

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia will double its military budget next year to about 500 million dollars following a deadly firefight with Thailand at their disputed border this month, a lawmaker said Wednesday.
Parliament is set to approve the new military budget in a session in early November, said Cheam Yeap, head of the parliament's finance commission.
"We need our soldiers to have enough capacity to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity and have proper equipment and weapons," he told AFP.
"We also want our soldiers to have better training and to be better equipped with weapons and other military tools," he said.
The lawmaker added that Cambodian soldiers also needed new bases and better pay from the government.
But the decision to vastly increase military spending will likely rankle many international donors, who provide about 600 million dollars per year for the impoverished country's national budget.
Many of Cambodia's Cold War-era weapons mis-fired during the October 15 firefight between troops on disputed land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple which left one Thai and three Cambodians dead.
While Thailand has a 300,000-strong armed force and a well-equipped air force, Cambodia's much smaller military is badly equipped, badly trained and disorganised, according to a Western military official in Bangkok.
Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia flared in July when the 11th century Preah Vihear temple was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.
Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance is in Thailand's northeastern Si Sa Ket province.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Frenchman, Briton arrested in Cambodia on drug charges

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — A Frenchman and a Briton have been arrested and charged with trafficking 1.1 kilograms (2.4 pounds) of marijuana in Cambodia, police said Wednesday.

Frenchman Jocelyn Fanget, 42, was trying to buy the drugs from Briton Craig Bullock, 37, when they were arrested Friday in the seaside resort town of Sihanoukville, said Moek Dara, director of the anti-narcotics department.

A Cambodian man, 35-year-old Chanda Try, was also arrested for providing transport to Bullock, he said.

"They were arrested at the scene while they were exchanging the drugs," Moek Dara told AFP. "The court has already charged them with drug trafficking. They are in jail now."

Marijuana is abundant in Cambodia and the country is also a well-known trafficking point for methamphetamines and heroin, particularly since neighbouring Thailand toughened its stance on illegal drugs in 2002.

New dogs needed to sniff out landmines in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH - IN A land where there are still between four million and six million unexploded landmines, one of its greatest groups of heroes are its mine-sniffing dogs.

Cambodia's 102 landmine-detection dogs were rigorously chosen and trained.

Now the dogs need replacing. However, the programme, which began in 1996, is desperately short of funds, reported Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA)

The director of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, Mr Khem Sophoan, said the mine-detecting dogs were ageing, while the landmine problem was far from solved.

'Dogs are just like people: When they get old, they have to retire,' he was quoted as saying.

'We love our dogs, and they never fail us...but now we need new dogs to train and financial assistance to maintain them.'

Cambodia is one of the world's most heavily-mined countries, after many years of bitter war. About 400 people are killed or maimed annually when they set off mines. Sweden set up the canine mine-detection programme using mostly German and Swedish shepherd crosses.

The programme was transferred to Cambodia in 2002. Training the dogs to sniff out explosives concealed underground or in rocky terrain littered with shrapnel is a tricky business.

Of every 100 canine candidates, "maybe only four or five make it", Mr Sophoan told DPA.

He said the programme cost around US$1.2 million (S$1.8 million) a year. Even an untrained dog may cost US$4,000, whereas a fully-trained animal could be worth US$30,000.

Cambodia bred its first litter of 10 puppies earlier this year from a pair of demining Belgian Shepherds from Bosnia.

But an intestinal disease killed half the puppies. Veterinary supplies are also in short supply.

Two Field Researcher Consultants with IOM_Cambodia based

Two Field Researcher Consultants with IOM_Cambodia based_Deadline: Nov 18, 2008

Open to External Candidates
Reference Code: VN 010/08 
Position Title: Field Researcher (2 Positions)
Duty Station: Ratanakiri or Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Estimated starting date: January 2009
Type of Contract: Consultancy (4 months)
Remuneration: $5000/month
Closing date: 18 November 2008
Under the direct guidance of the IOM Project Manager and the supervision of the IOM Chief of Mission, the consultant will perform the following tasks in the assigned province:
  1. Identify the vulnerability levels of the province to natural hazards including flooding and drought and assess the linkages between environmental degradation and vulnerability to natural hazards;
  2. Identify any current issues surrounding ecosystem management in the province, with a focus on deforestation practices;
  3. Identify any particularly vulnerable populations who have been affected by either or both deforestation and/or disasters;
  4. Analyse existing indigenous practices and knowledge relating to coping mechanisms for natural disasters and identify strategies for building resiliency;
  5. Identify changes to food, livelihood and social securities which have been driven by either or both deforestation and disasters;
  6. Assess the efficiency and the effectiveness of decentralization and de-concentration process with reference to disaster management and preparedness;
  7. Analyse the environmental, economic, and livelihood impacts of deforestation practices;
  8. Analyse the impact of environmental degradation on in/out migration patterns;
  9. Analyse the potential linkages between environmental preservation/restoration and population stabilization;
  10. Compile and analyse collected data, draft the final report and assist the IOM team in presenting the findings of the assessment.

Qualifications

  • a) PhD or Masters degree in Geography, Environmental Science, or related area;
  • b) proven expertise in disaster risk reduction research and activities;
  • c) sound knowledge of relevant research methodologies, including Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), Household Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (HVCA), and current disaster management discourses and policies;
  • d) experience working in conflict and post-conflict societies is desirable;
  • e) fluency in English, both oral and written;
  • f) excellent drafting skills with proven experience in writing and publishing papers, reports and assessments;
  • g) demonstrated team leadership skills, personal commitment, efficiency, flexibility, respect for diversity, creative thinking and a drive for results;
  • h) ability to work effectively and harmoniously with colleagues from varied cultures and professional backgrounds;
  • i) good level of computer literacy;
  • j) previous experience in conducting research in Cambodia is a strong asset.

Interested candidates are invited to submit a cover letter quoting the reference number on the envelope, an updated resume (CV) with three professional references and a daytime telephone contact to:

Human Resource Department
International Organization for Migration
Mission in Cambodia:
No.31, Street 71, Beung Keng Kang 1, Khan Chamcar Mon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel: +855.23.216532 • Fax: +855.23.216423 • E-mail:
iomphnompenh@iom.int • Internet: http://www.iom.int

Cambodian finance sector safe: bank


Written by Nguon Sovan   
TUESDAY, 28 OCTOBER 2008
The head of Cambodia's new Korean-owned Best Specialized Bank says the sector is insulated from global market turmoil and insists that fears of a drop in Korean investment are unjustified 

DESPITE the economic crisis gripping South Korea, the head of a newly-opened Korean bank says that Cambodia offers a safe haven from the international turmoil. 

"The bank specialises in providing loans, and 20 percent of the bank's profits will be go towards developing education, health and culture in Cambodia," said Shin Hyun-kyu, chairman of the Best Specialized Bank. 

Korean Ambassador Shin Hyun-suk also said the Kingdom has been largely spared from the global financial crisis. But he warned that falling global demand and asset shortages have begun to hit Cambodia's garment and tourism sectors, which have driven the country's double-digit expansion for the past five years. 

He added that Korean investment in Cambodia grew to US$830 million last year, making Cambodia the sixth-largest investment destination for Korean companies. 

In the first half of 2008, Korean investment in Cambodia increased to $860 million. 

He added that Korean investment has refocused from the garment sector to real estate and construction, but has now also turned attention to the banking sector. 

"To date, Korea has opened four commercial banks and one specialised bank in Cambodia," Shin said.

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, said Best Specialized is the sixth specialised bank to open in Cambodia, and NBC hopes the bank will be an active loan provider for small and medium business and agriculture enterprises.

"Even though Korea faces financial crisis, it is still investing in the banking sector in Cambodia. This reflects their trust in Cambodia's banking future," said Tal Nay Im.

She said local banks have not been affected by the global financial crisis because they remain relatively isolated from international finance. 

"So far, the banking sector in Cambodia has not been affected by the global financial crisis because our banking system hasn't been integrated into global banking.... The fact that we don't have a stock market also shelters us from the shocks," she said.   

She added that the National Bank of Cambodia has set out measures to counter the crisis by raising commercial banks' cash reserve requirements from eight percent to 16 percent in order to increase liquidity. Commercial bank reserves were raised from US$13 million to $37.5 million, and specialised bank reserves  from $2.5 million to $7.5 million.

The bank also restricted lending on real estate to not more than 15 percent of the total loan portfolio. 

South Korea has been hit hard by the financial crisis and the Korean won is Asia's worst-performing currency this year. 

Tal Nay Im said that to date, there are 22 commercial banks and six specialised banks in Cambodia. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Khmer Rouge stronghold gets markets lesson

PAILIN - The last decade has been a crash course in market economics for ex-Maoist guerrillas in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin, close to the Cambodian border with Thailand.  The town of approximately 22,000 went from playing a key role in the country's long-running civil war to being feted by Phnom Penh after its defection to the government in 1996. Now it has been reduced to a neglected rural backwater. 

Pailin has been hit hard by the political instability in Thailand and a long-running standoff between Thailand and Cambodia over the ancient Preah Vihear temple. The once flourishing border trade has been reduced to a trickle and so has the tourist traffic. 

"It's been a tough decade," says Koma, a taxi driver who makes a living plying the 83 kilometer road between Pailin and Battambang, Cambodia's second-biggest city. "First the gem stones went, then the timber dried up, now there's very little business left at all. There are no clubs and not a lot of hotels. It is very quiet." 

"For me it is hard to find customers who want to go to from Battambang to Pailin," says Koma gesturing at his empty taxi. "Most of them want to bypass Pailin and go straight to the Thai border." 

"Things are very slow," agrees one of several motorcycle taxi drivers waiting for fares outside the entrance of a Pailin temple. "There are far fewer tourists around now because of the problems in Thailand." 

Pailin was a major base in the Khmer Rouge's nearly 20-year civil war against the Phnom Penh government. 

Under the direction of former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, the town was the center of an enormously profitable border trade in gems and timber to Thailand, used by the guerrillas to finance their war. 

It was also a key entry point for Chinese military and financial assistance to the rebels. The road between Battambang and Pailin was once one of the country's most hotly contested battle zones, the scene of repeated offensives and counter offensives by the two sides. 

Circled by heavily forested hills, a natural barrier against government attacks, Pailin achieved a near mythical status. This was furthered in May 1992 when the Japanese head of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cambodia and his Australian senior military commander were prevented from visiting the town by a bamboo pole across the road manned by several young Khmer Rouge soldiers. The "bamboo pole incident", as it was referred to in the media, revealed the UN's impotence in the face of the Khmer Rouge's refusal to disarm. 

Government forces took Pailin briefly in 1994, only to lose it again when the Khmer Rouge counter-attacked. Government soldiers were said to have been too busy looting to strengthen their position. The town finally fell in 1996 when Sary defected to the government along with some 3,000 Khmer Rouge soldiers. The move isolated the movement's hardliners and proved to be the beginning of the end of the civil war. 

Sary cut a deal with the authorities pledging to remain neutral in the political in-fighting between feuding coalition parties in return for a free hand to continue to exploit the area's gem and timber wealth. The government feted Cambodia's newest citizens. Schools and hospitals were built in Pailin, the town hooked up to the national power grid, and promises of generous financial aid were made. 

Pailin prospered in the late 1990s as Thai gem traders flocked to it and a number of casinos were opened to attract Thai gamblers. 

However, things turned out to be not as rosy as many of its citizens hoped. Today, it takes four hours to get to Pailin from the Thai capital of Bangkok, around one hour more than it takes to complete the bone-jarring journey along the pot-holed road from Battambang. 

Residents say the gemstones, once so plentiful, began to run out in the early part of the decade. 

"We still find some gem stones but not as many as before," says Meas, who occasionally pans for stones by hand in a nearby river. "Most of them are gone, especially rubies and sapphires. There are some gems left but most of the fields are controlled by the government." 

Khmer Rouge logging in the 1990s largely denuded the area's timber reserves, reducing one of the town's other sources of income, the manufacture of hardwood furniture. Large areas surrounding the town have been cleared by agribusinesses to plant crops such as cashews, cassava and fruits. 

The casinos have shut up shop and moved to the Thai border. With them have closed many of the hotels built to cater to the gamblers. 

Some residents maintain that the smuggling of fuel and cars from Thailand are now major economic activities. The only new building work underway seems to be on several large villas. "The houses of former members of the Khmer Rouge with money," according to one local who did not want to be named. 

"Obviously life is better now that there is no fighting,'' says Chun Chheonn, a former soldier in the Khmer Rouge. "But things are difficult, especially for people who used to be in the old Khmer Rouge army. The government does not provide them with much assistance." 

No one from Pailin's local government was available to talk about the town's economic prospects. 

When Prime Minister Hun Sen visited this year, media reports claimed one of the businesses he proposed for the development of the area was a golf course. There are also plans to establish a special economic zone on the outskirts of the town to lure Thai business. 

For the large number of former soldiers whose only marketable skill is fighting, tensions with Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple have resulted in an opportunity of sorts. 

According to Chheonn, the military are keen to recruit troops from among the former Maoist guerrillas to send to the disputed temple area. "If they ask me to go to Preah Vihear I will. I'm happy to fight the Thais ... as long as Khmers do not fight Khmers." 

Meanwhile, the town's residents are keeping a wary eye on the international criminal tribunal into the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge and the possibility that more individuals may be arrested to join the five awaiting trial in Phnom Penh. 

The tribunal has been a sensitive subject ever since police swooped down in helicopters and arrested four of the town's most famous residents, former Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary, his wife Ieng Tirith, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea. 

"Everyone here in Pailin is paying very close attention to the trial, even if they are nervous to talk about it,'' says Chheonn. 

Neul, who runs a small shop next to Khieu Samphan's modest single-story house, remembers when the police took away took their elderly neighbor. "His wife bought things at my shop but he never came out," she says. 

Her husband, Savy, says, "I want him in jail for what he's done. No one around here was angry when he was arrested." 

Not everyone agrees. The Khmer Rouge "fought to stop the Vietnamese from taking our country", said Lat Lina, a local businessman. "You can print that the UN trial will not bring justice for Cambodia." 

(Inter Press Service)

Cambodia goes Baroque


Written by ELEANOR AINGE ROY   
MONDAY, 27 OCTOBER 2008
An upcoming International music festival will showcase Europe's Baroque music and perform works by undisputed genius JS Bach in Phnom Penh
17-Story-127.jpg
Photo by: ELEANOR AINGE ROY 
Participants in the upcoming Baroque festival, which starts Thursday in Phnom Penh, rehearse for performance.

THE International Phnom Penh Music Festival is set to begin this Thursday, rewinding 400 years with a Baroque theme, a classical style that emerged in Europe in the 1600s and dominated for 160 years. 

The festival marks the culmination of a joint effort between the Art Foundation, the Goethe Institute, the German Embassy and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and will feature a mixture of Cambodian and international musicians. 

All concerts at the festival will be free of charge - a change from the last four years. 

"The magic and universal language of music is an elite work, but it is not only for the elite. Our decision to make all the concerts of the festival free was a hard one, but it's in keeping with our mission; to spread music of all sorts  throughout Cambodia," said  Art CafĂ© owner and festival organiser Anton Isselhardt. 

Baroque music first appeared at the end of the Renaissance, Europe's intellectual, spiritual and cultural awakening after the Dark Ages. 


...we have to be aware of what is happening outside cambodia because we need to be inspired.


The literal meaning of Baroque is "misshapen pearl", and the style is known for being emotionally intense, with an interest in capturing the objective essence of a singularly strong emotion, such as grief.

The parallel theme of the Thursday festival is the German Bach family, which produced seven generations of musicians and composers. The most famous member of the Bach family is Johann Sebastian Bach, whose key works, Art of the Fugue, the Brandenburg Concertos and Well-Tempered Clavier, marked the peak of the Baroque era  and established his reputation as a composer of incomparable genius.

Last year the festival attracted an overall audience of 1,000, and this year the organisers hope to improve on this number, particularly encouraging more Cambodians to attend. Cambodians last year accounted for only 20 percent of the total audience.

Positive globalisation 

Professor Sam-Sang Sam, a musicologist at Phnom Penh's Pannasastra University, said he was pleased Cambodia will play host to a festival of foreign music and foreign musicians. 

"In terms of music in Cambodia, we are very young, like a baby. We have to be aware of what is happening outside Cambodia because we need to be inspired. This music festival is not dealing with conservation or restoration, but innovation," he said.

"There is so much fear that globalisation will ruin our culture, but this is one very positive side effect of the trend. For young Cambodian musicians, the chance to play with international musicians will greatly benefit their confidence and self-esteem," he added.

Veng Sereyvuth, a senior minister at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, agreed. 

"Cambodian society knows quite well that art is an integral part of life. Only in art, ethical, moral, philosophical and even sensual values are transported and continuously evaluated. Especially after great sufferings and a more economically orientated phase of reconstruction, Cambodian society tries increasingly to recover its own richness and is also interested in discovering transcultural values represented by the arts," he added. 

"We also know that arts are the best playground for the discourse between nations, ethnicities and individuals."
The first concert of the festival will be held at the Chaktomuk Theatre at 7pm Thursday and will feature four works by various Bach family members, as well as a speech on Baroque aesthetics and thinking by professor Dieter Mack.

The Mekong Discovery Trail Guidebook

Off to a flying start

The Mekong Discovery Trail guidebook was officially launched yesterday afternoon at the Cambodiana Hotel. Private sector tour operators and the like were invited alongwith the good and the great from the Ministry of Tourism, presided over by HE So Mara, the Secretary of State. This was my first official function of this nature and once the speeches and formalities were done - the launch appeared later on the local tv news - we got to see the guidebooks. The initial print run is 5,000 and like their website, it's a thoroughly professional production. The folks at the Dutch NGO SNV have been behind this project and they have certainly given it a good base from which to grow. The Mekong River has been under-utilised as a feature in Cambodia's appeal to visitors with the dolphins at Kratie capturing the headlines to-date. The Trail will shift that focus onto an eco-tourism footing that will couple the attraction of the dolphins with a series of other activities to appeal to foreign and domestic tourists alike. These include mountainbike tours, home and pagoda stays, birdwatching, cultural performances, island hopping, boat tours, horse-cart rides and more. It's time that Cambodia made better use of the extensive options the Mekong River provides and this is a good place to start. It's still in its infancy as far as infrastructure and bedding down the community services on offer are concerned, but the opportunity now exists to make it work as long as the variety of options is appealing enough to tourists and the marketing machine ensures that they are made aware of the Trail. I urge you to visit the Trail's website which like the guidebook is very professionally produced and informative.
HE So Mara (centre), Secretary of State for Tourism, presides over the official launch of the guidebook

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cambodia: Maoist Bastion Gets Lessons in Market Economics

PAILIN, Oct 27 (IPS) - For ex-Maoist guerrillas in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin, close to the Thai border, the last decade has been a crash course in market economics.

The town of approximately 22,000 went from playing a key role in the country’s long-running civil war, to being feted by Phnom Penh after its defection to the government in 1996 -- and now to its current status as a neglected rural backwater. 

Pailin has been hit hard by political instability in Thailand and the long-running standoff between Thailand and Cambodia over the ancient Preah Vihear temple. The once flourishing border trade has been reduced to a trickle and so has the tourist traffic. 

‘’It’s been a tough decade,’’ says Koma, a taxi driver who makes a living plying the 83 km road between Pailin and Battambang, Cambodia’s second biggest city. "First the gem stones went, then the timber dried up, now there’s very little business left at all. There are no clubs and not a lot of hotels. It is very quiet." 

"For me it is hard to find customers who want to go to from Battambang to Pailin," says Koma gesturing at his empty taxi. "Most of them want to by-pass Pailin and go straight to the Thai border." 

"Things are very slow," agrees one of several motorcycle taxi drivers waiting for fares outside the entrance of a Pailin temple. "There are far fewer tourists around now because of the problems in Thailand." 

Pailin was a major base in the Khmer Rouge’s nearly 20-year civil war against the Phnom Penh government. 

Under the direction of former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, the town was the centre of an enormously profitable border trade in gems and timber to Thailand, used by the guerrillas to finance their war. 

It was also a key entry point for Chinese military and financial assistance to the rebels. 

The road between Battambang and Pailin was once of the most hotly contested battle zones in the country, the scene of repeated offensives and counter offensives by the two sides. 

Circled by heavily forested hills, a natural barrier against government attacks, Pailin achieved a near mythical status. This was furthered in May 1992 when the Japanese head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Cambodia and his Australian senior military commander, were prevented from visiting the town by a bamboo pole across the road manned by several young Khmer Rouge soldiers. 

The ‘bamboo pole incident’, as it was referred to in the media, revealed the U.N.’s impotence in the face of the Khmer Rouge’s refusal to disarm. 

Government forces took Pailin briefly in 1994, only to lose it again when the Khmer Rouge counter-attacked. Government soldiers were said to have been too busy looting to strengthen their position. 

The town finally fell in 1996 when Sary defected to the government along with some 3,000 hardened Khmer Rouge soldiers. The move isolated the movement’s hardliners and proved to be the beginning of the end of the civil war. 

Sary cut a deal with the authorities pledging to remain neutral in the political in-fighting between the country’s feuding coalition parties in return for a free hand to continue to exploit the area’s gem and timber wealth. 

The government feted Cambodia’s newest citizens. Schools and hospitals were built in Pailin, the town hooked up to the national power grid, and promises of generous financial aid were made. 

Pailin prospered in the late nineties as Thai gem traders flocked to it and a number of casinos were opened up to attract Thai gamblers. 

However, things turned out to be not as rosy as many of its citizens hoped. 

Today, it takes four hours to get to Pailin from the Thai capital of Bangkok, around one hours’ travel time more than it takes to complete the bone-jarring journey along the pot- holed road from Battambang. 

The local residents say the gemstones, once so plentiful, began to run out in the early part of the decade. 

"We still find some gem stones but not as many as before," says Meas, who occasionally pans for stones by hand in a nearby river. "Most of them are gone, especially rubies and sapphires." 

"There are some gems left but most of the fields are controlled by the government," he adds. 

Khmer Rouge logging in the nineties largely denuded the area’s timber reserves, reducing one of the town’s other sources of income, the manufacture of hardwood furniture. 

Large areas surrounding the town have been cleared by agribusinesses to plant crops such as cashews, cassava and fruits. 

The casinos have shut up shop and moved to the Thai border. With them have closed many of the hotels built to cater to the gamblers. 

Some residents maintain that the smuggling of fuel and cars from Thailand are now major economic activities. 

The only new building work underway seems to be on several large villas, "the houses of former members of the Khmer Rouge with money," according to one local who did not want to be named. 

"Obviously life is better now that there is no fighting,’’ says Chun Chheonn, a former soldier in the Khmer Rouge. "But things are difficult, especially for people who used to be in the old Khmer Rouge army. The government does not provide them with much assistance." 

No one from Pailin’s local government was available to talk about the town’s economic prospects. 

When Prime Minister Hun Sen visited, earlier in the year, media reports claimed one of the businesses he proposed for the development of the area was a golf course. There are also plans to establish a special economic zone on the outskirts of the town to lure Thai business. 

For the large number of former soldiers whose only marketable skill is fighting, tensions with Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple have resulted in an opportunity of sorts. 

According to Chheonn, the military are keen to recruit troops from among the former Maoist guerrillas to send to the disputed temple area. "If they ask me to go to Preah Vihear I will. I’m happy to fight the Thais… as long as Khmers do not fight Khmers." 

Meanwhile, the town’s residents are keeping a wary eye on the international criminal tribunal into the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge and the possibility that more individuals may be arrested to join the five currently awaiting trial in Phnom Penh. 

The tribunal has been a sensitive subject ever since police swooped down in helicopters and arrested four of the town’s most famous residents, former Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary, his wife Ieng Tirith, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea. 

"Everyone is paying very close attention to the trial here in Pailin even if they are nervous to talk about it,’’ says Chheonn. 

Neul, who runs a small shop next to Khieu Samphan’s modest single story house, remembers when the police took away took their elderly neighbour. 

"His wife bought things at my shop but he never came out," she says. "I want him in jail for what he’s done," says her husband Savy. "No one around here was angry when he was arrested." 

Not everyone agrees. 

"They [the Khmer Rouge] fought to stop the Vietnamese from taking our country," said Lat Lina, a local businessman. "You can print that the U.N. trial will not bring justice for Cambodia." 

"I am glad about the tribunal but I want it to be quick," says Chheonn. "There is a lot of funding for the tribunal but it keeps being delayed. Many of the senior Khmer Rouge leaders are already dead, maybe soon some of those facing trial will die. Who will be left to face justice?" 

Cambodia: Grim history and black humour

Tim Roxborogh

The legendary Angkor Wat temple. Photo / AP

The legendary Angkor Wat temple. Photo / AP

We're sitting at the dining room table and no one is saying a word. We all have food balanced on our spoons, mouths open, but the stories from our host are so gripping and monumental that the two haven't quite met. Then all of a sudden: "Who wants to hear a landmine joke?"

Without missing a beat, our Cambodian tour guide and host of tonight's dinner party, Mr Lee, had switched from recounting his survival in the killing fields of the 1970s to a question our tour group was all certain we'd misheard.

We'd been sitting in respectful, awed silence as he told his brave, inspiring life, when suddenly we were immersed in some of that classic foreigner awkwardness as Mr Lee chortled on about Englishmen, Irishmen and Cambodians.

Still, it's fair to say he and his countrymen have probably earned a laugh or two, while we sat around him quietly enjoying food that puts even the delicious Thai and Vietnamese cuisines to shame.

We were in Cambodia's tourist capital, Siem Reap - a place we'd been told would be the highlight of any trip to South East Asia.

Fifteen years ago Siem Reap received 2000 foreign tourists a year, now that figure is two million.

Many step off the plane thinking they're coming to a town called Angkor Wat and just as many think Angkor is the only temple here. In fact, it has become the most famous due to its status as it is the world's single biggest religious building.

The other name never far from anyone's lips here is Angelina Jolie. The actress is revered here, thanks, not so much to her adoption of a Cambodian orphan or her charitable donations, but rather to the fact that 10 years ago her fun but rather silly movie Tomb Raider opened the eyes of the world's tourists to Cambodia.

But why the fuss? And how could a place with that kind of a ridiculous influx of tourists possibly still have any of its original charms?

Thanks to our freshly laminated Angkor temple passes we had three days to find out.

At the end of those three days our tour party is knackered. There have been countless steps up to stunning temples, glorious spires and beautiful carvings; not to mention the realisation that 1000 years ago man was advanced enough to build monuments such as these, yet just 30 years ago he was backward enough to commit the single worst genocide in any country's history.

As recently as the 1990s Cambodia was still reeling from years of war and genocide with a life-expectancy of under 50. While the country is still racked by corruption, high infant mortality and a depressing mistreatment of women, it has pulled itself out of a deep mire remarkably quickly.

People like Mr Lee attribute its new popularity with tourists to the fact that Cambodia is a beautiful, green, tropical country with one of the world's greatest historical and religious sites at Angkor.

The temples are about 1000 years old, but most Westerners didn't even know of their existence until Jolie swashbuckled her way through them.

Add to that the many other temples with their crumbling blocks, dark chambers with tree roots spilling over the walls and this place is worth the hype, and that's without taking into account the most overlooked asset of Siem Reap: the town itself.

It is a tree-laden river town with beautiful French colonial architecture, sensational food, lively backpacker nightlife and tasteful hotels. This could be a city transformed by tourist dollars into a Vegas-like nightmare, yet somehow all the development (while often lavish) seems in keeping with the laidback, tropical paradise vibe Siem Reap has always had. Even the tuk-tuks that line the main drag have a peaceful grandeur.

Tim Roxborogh travelled to SE Asia courtesy of Flight Centre.

SIEM REAP TOP 5

1: TA Prohm Temple 
Not as famous as Angkor Wat, this jungle temple was our favourite and is so surreal you'd swear its 1000-year-old walls were built by Steven Spielberg in the 1980s.

2: Angkor Wat 
The largest religious structure in the world is a colossus that should be visited as soon as possible: roped-off, no-access areas are increasing due to tourist numbers.

3: Hot-air balloon ride 
A cheap and brilliant way to get your bearings.

4: Pub Street 
Where some of the most fun, chilled-out nightlife in Cambodia can be found.

5: The countless markets 
The largest and cleanest markets in the region are so first-world you forget you're supposedly in one of the poorest countries in Asia.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Irrigation advances fuel Cambodian rice dream

By Ek Madra

TRAMKOK, Cambodia (Reuters) - Sok Sarin flashes a toothless grin as he looks at his newly built house and remembers how the other farmers laughed when he pioneered new rice-growing techniques in his district in southern Cambodia.

Better irrigation, training in how to select seeds and cheap fertilizer made from wild plants and animal or bat droppings have more than doubled the yield from his rice fields to 3.4 tons per hectare from 1.5 tons.

"No one believed that this idea would work. Now they follow me and they have good harvests," said Sarin, 60.

Cambodia's economy was devastated by civil war from the 1970s to the late 1990s, including four years under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, whose dream of transforming the country into a great rice power ended in the nightmare of the "Killing Fields."

Now another agrarian revolution is under way as the government seeks to boost rice exports and cut poverty among its 14 million people, 85 percent of whom are farmers or members of farming families.

Thanks in large part to vastly improved irrigation, Sarin can get two crops a year from his fields, earning him an income of $1,500. Per capita income in Cambodia is around $500.

Sarin's neighbor, Long Yos, 50, said Cambodian farmers were also following methods honed in China, India and the Philippines to breed fish that eat the insects that destroy rice plants.

"The fish eat the insects; we eat the fish when they get bigger," said Yos.

OVER-AMBITIOUS

Better irrigation and the expansion of land use are crucial to government ambitions to produce 15 million tons of rice by 2015, more than double the 7 million forecast for 2008/09 and 6.76 million in 2007/08. The main harvest is in November.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Cambodia was the world's ninth-biggest rice exporter in 2007 with 450,000 tons. Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun says Cambodia could export 8 million tons by 2015.

Neighbors Thailand and Vietnam were in first and third places in the export table in 2007 with 9.5 million tons and 4.5 million tons respectively, according to the USDA.

One rice dealer with a trading house in Singapore estimated Cambodia exported 600,000 to 800,000 tons a year, directly or indirectly via Thailand, and could push that up to 1.5 million tons in one or two seasons if the government was focused.

"But 8 million tons is an entirely different ball game. Obviously, this has to come from increases in area and not just yield," he said.

Another Singapore trader said it would take a lot of money for Cambodia to push yields significantly higher.

"China is the only country in the developing world that has reached 6 to 8 tons per hectare. Thailand is at 3.5 tons per hectare while India is around 2.5 tons," he said.

Analysts in Thailand, while acknowledging how far Cambodia has come already, think its plans are just too ambitious.

"It's possible, but it would not be that easy," Paka-on Tipayatanadaja at Kasikorn Research said of the 2015 target.

"It would take more than a decade to develop not only an irrigation system, but also a logistics system and storage systems," she added.

IRRIGATION

Many Cambodian farmers harvest just once a year because of a lack of water. Vietnam and Thailand, with their superior irrigation, manage two or three crops.

Phnom Penh is investing about $49 million a year on irrigation, said Hang Chuon Naron, an official at the Finance Ministry, but much more is needed.

"Japan and South Korea are helping us but that's not enough," said Chea Chhun Keat of the Water Resources Ministry, adding 1.6 million hectares of 2.6 million under cultivation was irrigated.

Foreign investment is flowing into Cambodia thanks to its cheap labor and the political stability achieved under Hun Sen, prime minister since 1985.

In August, Kuwait agreed loans totaling $546 million, of which $486 million will be invested in irrigation systems and hydro-power on the Stueng Sen river in the northeast of the country.

A Kuwaiti newspaper said Kuwait had leased rice fields to secure food supplies. Qatar also plans to invest $200 million in Cambodian farmland.

"They have the money, we have the land. They wouldn't come if we didn't have agricultural potential," said farm minister Sarun.

Land under cultivation could be pushed up to 3.5 million hectares quite quickly, according to Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture.

He pointed to the area round Tonle Sap, Cambodia's biggest freshwater lake with up to 800,000 hectares of potential farm land, much of it unused as a lack of irrigation means farmers can't control water levels: In the rainy season, there's too much, which damages rice plants, in the dry season too little.

There is more land to be worked in the northeast and in the still-mined former battlefields of the northwest.

In all, Saing Koma said, Cambodia had 6 million hectares that might be cultivated for rice and other crops.

The average rice yield per hectare is currently 2.6 tons and he said that could be pushed up to 3.5 tons -- a yield that Sarin has in his sights thanks to the training, irrigation and bat droppings that have given him two crops a year.

(Writing by Alan Raybould; editing by Megan Goldin)

High U.S. tariffs hurt Cambodian garment sector

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- High U.S. tariffs are hurting Cambodia's garment sector, with the industry complaining that high import costs and a slowing U.S. economy could sink the Kingdom's key industry, state media reported Tuesday.

    In 2007, Cambodia paid 419 million U.S. dollars in tariffs on 2.46 billion U.S. dollars worth of exported goods, meaning the industry is paying an average 17 percent tariff, the Phnom Penh Post said, citing a new report by the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist U.S. think tank.

    The average U.S. tax on imports is 1.3 percent, while Saudi Arabia pays only 0.1 percent on the goods it exports to the U.S., the Post said.

    Cambodia has already seen a 500 million U.S. dollars drop in exports to the U.S. in the first eight months of this year compared to the same period last year, said Kaing Monika, externalaffairs manager at the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC).

    He added that the sector has suffered a loss of about 20,000 workers.

    Garments have been hard hit by the U.S. slowdown, with clothing sales down in 2008.

    Cambodia sells about 70 percent of its clothing to the U.S. market, making it highly vulnerable to fluctuations in the U.S. economy and Washington's trade policies.

    

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Siem Reap's Hotel De La Paix


Angkor Wat is Cambodia's penultimate symbol, source of national pride, and hottest travel destination. The network of ancient temples'--built during the height of the ancient Khmer culture and abandoned in the jungle during its decline--attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. Dozens of hotels in the nearby city of Siem Reap accommodate this steady influx.

With so many places to stay, ranging from bargain-basement backpacker joints to ultra-luxe resorts, citing the city's best is sort of like pinpointing the best wedding chapel in Vegas: subjective, at best and damn near impossible. Though a few notables stand out.

One of the premier five-star hotels in Siem Reap is Hotel de la Paix, a resort that fuses modern architecture with a Khmer twist. The resort's Art Deco style distinguishes it from its competitors, as does its commitment to responsible consumption and support of local welfare organizations. Who knows how much of this altruism is PR fluff and what is substantial. 

Still, visiting a city that exhibits both ancient and modern opulence also sheds light on those who have been left out (beggars and land mine victims line the streets of Siem Reap). So while your enjoying a customized spa treatment on the rooftop terrace, knowing a portion of the proceeds goes toward helping the folks outside the gates might help ease your conscience and put your mind on the path to relaxation.

Right now, the hotel's Arts Lounge also features a memorial to Khmer Rouge victims and at Christmastime, the hotel runs a toy drive to benefit children at the local hospital.

Guest comments:

Stayed there last summer and can highly recommend it.  Great location near the emerging downtown, and their restaurant is not to be missed.

Best of all, they have some of the best guides for seeing Angkor Wat. A two-day guided tour of the sites, including a guide, private car and driver, is about $60 for two people - a must!

Cambodia Tourism-Peak Season: Bayon Heritage Travel and Tours ready to serve

2008-10-07 06:56:05 - Ministry of tourism has proposed a news tourism slogan-Visiting Cambodia, Kingdom of Wonder- which reflects the tremendousness of Cambodia's tourism...


Cambodia tourism is growing notably. Cambodian Ministry of tourism is reporting number of tourist arrival were up 13 percent in the first half of 2008. The World Heritage-listed ruins have been a vital engine driving Cambodia's tourism. Cambodia has the potential attraction and provides the real experiences to tourists as Ministry of tourism has proposed a news tourism slogan-Visiting Cambodia, Kingdom of Wonder- which reflects the tremendousness of Cambodia's tourism. During holiday vacation and peak season for tourism in Cambodia, the reservation rate in tourism industry is expected to be high. 

As yet Bayon Heritage Travel and Tours, one of the leading tour operators in the Indochina Region, is ready for the TRAVEL peak season. We are fully licensed as international tour operators and recognized as a leading luxury holiday and vacation organizer arranging private and group tours to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. Why Travel with us? 

Bayon Heritage offers exciting and enjoyable trips ranging from free and easy tours to challenging activities and in-depth exploration of culture, history, tradition, and lifestyle, including a wonderful variety of cuisines, vistas, and personal encounters in the enchanting, unspoiled landscapes of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. 

With in-depth local knowledge, our friendly tour operators provide holiday experiences that you will remember and treasure long after your holiday has ended. We tailor our tours to suit each traveler's needs and to exceed their expectations -- including the most discerning of travelers. Customer satisfaction is highly taken in to consideration and is our great success. 

Selecting Bayon Heritage Travel and Tours as your travel consultant is smarter decision making and choice to fully taste travel experience with suitable price that won't disappoint you. So DO NOT Wait! The time is now to travel to enjoy your holiday in Indochina region with Bayon Heritage Travel and Tours who is a smart travel consultant standing next to you while on trip. To book your trip, please link to www.tourismindochina.com/

For more information about Hotel in Cambodia 
www.tourismindochina.com/cambodia/hotels/siemreap.html 

For more information about Cambodia Visa
www.tourismindochina.com/visa.htm

For more information about Cambodia Tour Package
www.tourismindochina.com/cambodia/tours/


Kontaktinformation:
Bayon Heritage Travel and Tours

#14 Eo, Street 51( Pasteur), Beong Keng kang I, Khan Chamkarmorn, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tel: (+855)-23 997 178 / 353 598
Fax: (+855) - 23 223 299
www.tourismindochina.com

Kontakt-Person:
CHHEM Samnang
Author
Phone: +855 92 53 43 66
E-mail: e-mail

Web: http://www.tourismindochina.com




Presse-Information:
Bayon Heritage Travel and Tours

#14 Eo, Street 51( Pasteur), Beong Keng kang I, Khan Chamkarmorn, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tel: (+855)-23 997 178 / 353 598
Fax: (+855) - 23 223 299
www.tourismindochina.com

Kontakt-Person:
CHHEM Samnang
Author
Phone: +855 92 53 43 66
E-mail: e-mail

Web: http://www.tourismindochina.com


Hand-woven Cambodian silk

A fine weave

Story and photos by LIM CHIA YING


Hand-woven Cambodian silk not only makes a great gift, its purchase helps to support Cambodians and preserve their heritage.

THE work that goes into creating the fine quality of Cambodian silk is most painstaking, to say the least. Until one actually witnesses the entire process - from breeding the silkworms to spinning the single last thread - it’s difficult to appreciate the skill involved in producing these beautiful textiles.

A recent holiday to Siem Reap, Cambodia, allowed me to do just that. Half-baked from the searing heat of the sun after a visit to the famed Angkor archaeological sites and temples, my companion and I decided to take it easy the next day and made an out-of-the-way trip to the Angkor Silk Farm.

A worker is degumming the silk to unwind the thread from the cocoons which have been dipped in hot water to extract the raw thread.

Travel brochures don’t often mention the farm, and I stumbled upon it while running through pages of small advertisements inside a local guidebook.

Located about 16km outside Siem Reap town, our tuk-tuk driver initially looked lost when we asked for the farm, until we pointed him in the direction of the Puok district. You have to go through dusty laterite roads and a nondescript lane to get there but the Angkor Silk Farm is actually in a sizeable compound with several wooden workshops fronting row upon row of mulberry trees, with a placard in front of each one to indicate the different species.

We later found out that 18 species are grown at the farm, and besides a homegrown variety, they are also imported from places like China and Japan. Each species can be distinguished from the shape and size of its leaves, which are wafer-thin and delicate.

Meth Thong, who had just finished his lunch when we arrived, was more than glad to take us around.

“Mulberry leaves are natural food for silkworms to induce them to spit out their saliva and spin themselves into a cocoon,” he said.

At one of the workshops, staff were sorting out the different types of leaves and cutting them into fine pieces before scattering them over silkworm eggs that were laid in baskets.

A worker spinning thread before it is used for weaving.

These eggs are also covered up with cloth to keep them warm and to prevent flies or mosquitoes from attacking them.

A picture chart on one of the walls informs visitors of the life cycle of a silkworm.

“First, there’s the cocoon,” explained Meth. “After five days, the larvae inside hatches and become moths.

“After that, the male and female moths will mate within four to five hours, and once the eggs are laid the adult moths will die.

“These eggs will be incubated for 12 days, before they turn grey and the silkworms break out to feed on the mulberry leaves.”

A female moth can lay between 250 and 300 yellow eggs each time. The baby silkworms mature in four different stages; at each stage, the worms eat for three days and sleep for one day so their skin can shed and they can continue growing.

It is during the final growing stage that the worms spin themselves into cocoons to start the life cycle all over again.

To protect them, the wriggling silkworms are placed inside a tightly closed room, lined with mosquito netting.

Meth said 80% of the silkworms bred are used to extract silk thread, while the remaining 20% are kept to ensure continuous breeding and reproduction.

“Cambodian silkworms are unique, as they are yellow in colour compared to white ones in other countries,” he said.

In one of the workshops, the cocoons are dipped into boiling water and gently prodded to extract the raw thread. Once this process, called degumming, is done, the cocoon goes into another boiling pot to have the fine silk layer fished out.

One of the women working on this was happily munching away on some of the boiled worms.

She gestured to me to try one of her afternoon tidbits, and after much hesitation I popped one into my mouth. It had a rather watery texture, with a slightly salty aftertaste that lingered. It was not something I would try again!

Further down the line, women were spooling the extracted thread and wrapping it on big wheels to give it more tension.

Many of the women, said Meth, are rural local folks who have the opportunity to make a living from their skills and revive an ancient tradition and heritage.

According to Artisans d’ Angkor, the company responsible for running this farm and other skills workshops for local people in Siem Reap, silk weaving was introduced in Cambodia in the 13th century thanks to the Silk Road that once traversed South-East Asia. The craft is practised by women in rural villages using traditional looms set up below their stilted houses during the dry season when they are not working in the fields.

Another fascinating stage in the silk-making is when colour is added to the thread. The farm uses both chemical and natural dyes €“ the latter involves boiling ingredients like tree barks and rusty nails €“ items you would never think of.

During the weaving process, women dexterously use the tie-dye-and-dry technique that requires dyeing the weft thread (the one on the width of the fabric) to prepare the pattern.

For every extra colour included in the fabric, the tie-dye-and-dry step has to be repeated, and Meth said it takes between two and three days to dry one colour, depending on the weather.

“Silk in Cambodia is mostly woven by hand. It’s a time-consuming and meticulous process, but it’s a skill that Cambodians know best and something we must preserve.

“It’s our heritage, and one that we are proud to share with the world.”

Visitors can purchase handmade items like shawls, purses, apparel and even pillowcases at the Artisans d’Angkor boutique, which are produced straight from the weaving looms.

Prices are a little steep, but if you see first-hand the hours of labour and complex handiwork that go into every thread, you may find it’s all well worth the money you pay.

The Angkor Silk Farm is open daily from 7am to 5pm. Guided tours are available in Khmer, English, French and Japanese, and are provided free of charge but a small token is always appreciated. For details, visitwww.artisansdangkor.com.