Noritada Morita,Chairman of the Pride of Asia : Preah Vihear Association Japan (2015.10.20)
In February 2014, the governments of nine countries, including Thailand, who belong to UNESCO, started a support team aimed at restoring the “World Heritage Preah Vihear Temple”. Founding Members are India, China (co-chair), Japan, France, USA, Belgium, Korea, Thailand, Cambodia. This will eventually determine who will be involved in the restoration of the ruins, and it is expected that the attention from the international community will increase. The “eco-village” that we have supported through the cooperation of our members is the locality of the “temple” and should be the future “monzen-machi” village. Up to this point, PVAJ was the only NGO that has supported this village, but with this development by the international community, many members of the public and private sectors have joined us and enlivened Preah Vihear. Good news for us too. I would like to thank all of you who have supported our activities at this opportunity.
Under such a new environment, we have positioned 2015 as the “first year of Preah Vihear” and have considered it as a leap year. Our project site used to be the least developed area in Cambodia because it was once the last fierce battle of the Indochina War. The majority of the inhabitants are farmers who settled in this area after the peace of Cambodia, and the income of the residents of Eco Village is still low. Needless to say, the introduction of agricultural technology and the development of human resources are urgently needed to improve farmers' lives. In addition, it is of course necessary to work to maintain the attractiveness of this region through forest and environmental conservation, which has not been paid much attention, and the protection of natural forms. Focusing on tourism-related activities such as conservation of rural nature and landscapes is essential to support the lives of residents.
In every society, where precious cultural heritage is protected, it is based on a strong sense of solidarity as a technology, tradition and community. In the case of Preah Vihear, unfortunately, it lost its foundation for historical reasons that it had experienced. Local communities need to build this patiently. To that end, it is essential to raise the local community by itself and to protect the ruins based on it. What makes this possible is the recovery of agricultural productivity and the strengthening of the economy through use of tourism resources. The people who will able to carry out the work are the people of “Monzen-Machi”. We can help them restart by showing how to strengthen the economy and transferring the necessary technology. This is done by running a limited pilot farm (model farm) rather than directly supporting all 2,000 farmers in Eco Village. It functions as a “classroom” for training local leaders and directing farmers. Our main work is “providing samples” and “creating group leaders” to spread knowledge on agriculture and eco-tourism.
For this purpose, 12 ha of land is rented from the site to our association. So far, the development of about 1/3 of the land has been completed with the support of our members. In addition, tree-planting activities became possible with the support of “Tokyo Club” and “Green Fundraising”. Recently, the dispatch of agricultural engineers from Japan has made rice cultivation possible. “Koshihikari” is scheduled to be harvested. As for agricultural products, we are aiming to spread organic cultivation including rice and vegetables. In addition, the Asian Institute of Technology (International Graduate University with a 60-year history in Bangkok) has received a request for cooperation in the fields of farm house construction materials and freshwater fish farming.
Development of the remaining 2/3 of the planned pilot farm will start in the dry season (November to June). The first thing we have to do is find clues to solve the problem of how farmers eat today. We plan to start working on chicken farming, fish farming, and setting up a nursery. At the same time, we need to make sure that “tomorrow they will be able to send more children to junior high school”. As described above, the central axis of our activities is “technology transfer” for village independence. The 12 ha land is the base for that. In the medium and long term, we plan to establish basic facilities such as a reservoir, a work place, and a dormitory for workers, which will enable stable water supply on 12 ha of land.
Finally, Preah Vihear is a land blessed with broad nature and a beautiful environment. Some of the foothills become beautiful wetlands during the rainy season. In the village surrounded by forests, you can see small ruins that are not maintained at all. In the future, not only the Preah Vihear Temple, but in the future, it will be time to look at the “possibility of rural tourism” such as trekking and cycling in the village.
Now, the local people are trying to set the goal of making this area “the most beautiful village in Cambodia”. We hope that this year will be the first year of Preah Vihear, in which, together with the escape from poverty, there will be as many people as possible to lend power to this dream.