(Written by Ty Theavy, edited by Louisa Lopez from England – Thursday, March 10th, 2011)
“History of Trapeang Roung”
Trapeang Roung has a rich, interesting and sometimes troubling history. By being here and participating in eco and cultural activities you can help shape a more positive future for the local people.
This area is called Trapeang Roung because there is a large pond with a deep cave nearby. Trapeang means ‘pond’ in Khmer (Cambodian Language) and Roung means ‘cave’. The local people say that the rock cave was the place where tigers came to give birth every year. There were also many snakes and the pond was full of crocodiles. The cave is on the way to Deitum Neap which is about 2km from here.
This area was also known as Roung Kiri as the French gave it this name on the map, when Cambodia was under French colonial rule. Kiri means mountain, so the name Roung Kiri refers to the cave in the mountain.
A long time ago, this district was part of the Kampot province and very few people lived here.
Then in the period 1955-60 (known as the Sankum Reas Niyum), King Nordom Sihanouk took power over this area, and so many newcomers from provinces like Takeo, Svay Rien, Kampong Cham, came to live here. The place where the people from Takeo lived was called Anlung Ta Keo village, but now it is known simply as Alung Keo. In the 1960’s there were only two villages here.
In about 1962 King Nordom Sihanouk founded the provincial town of Koh Kong and now this area is listed as part of the Koh Kong Province.
Trapeang Roung in the Pol Pot Regime
Just as in most of Cambodia, residents of this area were killed under Pol Pot’s regime, however the majority of the villagers fled to neighbouring Thailand.
Trapeang Roung after 1979
After 1979 this area was restructured into four villages, Trapeang Roung, Deitumneab, Prek Angkung and Koh Kong Khnong (this last village is a great place to try a homestay and experience local culture). These villages form the Trapeang Roung Commune, which is in the Koh Kong District, and Koh Kong Province.
In the 1980’s residents and Vietnamese soldiers from the Khmer Rouge Rebels resisted the Pol Pot regime. At that time, most people who lived in this area did so because it was easy to earn a living importing and exporting goods with Thai vendors and merchants. About 90% of the residents spoke Thai, but many found it difficult to speak Cambodian. Today many people here speak both Thai and Khmer.
When the people at that time were asked about their nationality, they said they did not think of themselves as Cambodian, instead Thai Kaong Kang, meaning ‘Thai people who live in the mangrove tree area by the river.’
Trapeang Roung in the 1990s
In the 1990’s this district became very lawless, with lots of newcomers from different parts of Cambodia. Many people became illegal loggers and log sellers, and these were exported to Thailand.
Whilst deforestation was and still is illegal, many people have earned their living through illegal hunting and logging, meaning that lots of species of flora and fauna have become endangered.
The CBET (Community Based EcoTourism) project came to this area to help stop illegal hunting and logging and protect the area’s natural and cultural resources. CBET creates jobs and income opportunities for villagers, providing alternative livelihoods for hunters, loggers and people who collect natural products for export, such as bee’s honey. The project particularly focuses on helping the poorest families, orphans and elders.
Your visit here will help to support the needy people of the area, improve infrastructure, offer education opportunities and protect and preserve local wildlife and plant life. About 25% of all the money from activities and food eaten in restaurants goes to the CBET fund which is used to pay for project costs and also to and create a better future for the local people.