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The liaison between Peaceland Foundation and Cambodia started in 2017 when the founder of Peaceland Foundation met Mr Chea Munyrith at a workshop by the Chinese NGO Network of International Exchange (CNIE). Mr Chea is the planning and project director of the Civil Society Alliance Forum in Cambodia, as well as the director of the Confucius Institute at Royal Academy of Cambodia from 2009 to 2017. Being able to speak and write fluent Chinese, he is the focal point person for most Chinese organisations that want to operate in his country.
With the support of Mr Chea, Peaceland Foundation was able to conduct three different activities and benefited more than 1000 residents. On 27th May 2021, we were honoured to interview him and discuss the process and challenges Peaceland Foundation has faced during the past few years.
Demining operation in Banteay Srei
Cambodia is a country that has a major problem with landmines. Since the Cambodian Civil in 1967, many landmines have remained uncleared in a large land area. Despite the demining program in 1988, many communities have still suffered from undiscovered landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO).
With a goal of offering humanitarian assistance on an international level, Peaceland decided to cooperate with Mr Chea and other local stakeholders in Cambodia, committing to reducing landmines and explosive remnants of war casualties for people’s livelihood. In 2018, Peaceland sent out its technical assistants and made donations for the demining operation in Banteay Srei, a district in northwest Cambodia. Over the 10 months period, together with the help of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), more than 100 mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) have been destroyed.
Daily Necessities Donation and Cookstove Program
Unfortunately, the mine clearance service stopped due to the spread of COVID 19. Mr Chea suggested shifting the focus to programs that could continue without Peaceland staff being physically present in Cambodia. After a thorough evaluation, Peaceland Foundation decided to conduct programs aiming to improve the livelihoods of local people in mine-affected communities, especially those who had received severe physical injuries due to landmine and UXO explosions.
Since last December, thanks to the help from Mr Chea and other international partners in Cambodia, Peaceland has been able to donate canvas fishponds and chicken cages for local social and economic development. This year as a follow-up part of the long-term sustainable development assistance to the area, Peaceland Foundation donated soy sauce, fish sauce and cash to 20 families in the towns of Kunun and Lunjai in Queen’s Palace in Siem Reap Province.
In addition, Peaceland is continually looking for the best way to address the demands of vulnerable groups. This April, together with our partners, Peaceland Foundation donated 4497 portable fuel-efficient improved cookstoves (ICS) to Cambodia (3500 to villagers in Svay Rieng Province and 997 to villagers in Siem Reap province). The ICSs in our program can replace the old low efficient solid-fuel cooking solutions, and will burn wood more efficiently, hence saving firewood and the time people need to collect firewood each day. We are devoted to supporting Cambodian rural communities to clean up cooking, reduce energy consumption and counter poverty.
Challenges Ahead and Peaceland’s Next Movement
Currently, Peaceland is planning on a new project, aiming at providing more humanitarian responses and medical care to people in Cambodia. Accordingly, Mr Chea gave his advice on Peaceland conducting a need assessment on a grass-root level so as to figure out the best way to approach beneficiaries.
He emphasised the importance of such assessment using the China-Aid Cambodia Mobile Clinic Project as an example. In that project, twenty mobile clinics, staffed by nurses and prepared with advanced medical equipment, were sent out to offer on-the-spot primary care for patients in rural communities. Though with a good intention, the mobile clinics were unfortunately not at their best use because it does not reflect the most urgent needs of the locals. The limitation of people staying inside the clinic bus made many patients wait in the queue outside in the hot weather. Besides, since the many roads in rural areas were not fully paved, clinic buses could still face many hindrances.
Therefore, Mr Chea advised using other transportation methods to access people who can hardly travel to main cities for medical treatment. In response, Peaceland proposed a medical boat project to reach isolated residents along the river road. Providing that there have been several floating clinic programs before in Cambodia, Peaceland can learn from these cases and further figure out the most essential and urgent needs to address for now.
We believe that by actively cooperating with Mr Chea, local NGOs, and other regional stakeholders, Peaceland’s medical boat project can make its best use to offer more humanitarian support to the people of Cambodia. At the same time, we will continue our communication with Mr Chea to seek any future opportunity to keep on our demining operations in Cambodia.