(wrote in 2008 by Ty Theavy, edited by Mr. Jack Smith from England)
“History of Chi Phat”
Photos: From internet.
Koh Kong: Many first-time overseas visitors to Chi Phat village eco-tourism sites have little idea of what they will actually encounter. This commune, which accommodates around 500 families, is interesting because the people have come here to live from many other regions, mainly because they were attracted by work during the time of deforestation and logging. After the creation of the Cardamoms Conservation park, logging declined and after that Chi Phat village had fewer opportunities for work.
The majority of the villagers are quite poor, and so have few other ways to earn a living unless they illegally hunt wildlife. But we were also concerned that the wildlife would be in danger of becoming extinct. This is the reason for the creation of the first CBET office established by Chi Phat Community; we believe we can improve the local livelihood, preserve and share our culture, preserve natural resources and wildlife, and encourage cross-culture exchanges through the development of Eco Tourism.
Community Based Eco-Tourism in Chat Phat is delighted to warmly welcome you in visiting our many tour programs, such as jungle trekking and camping to photograph wild pigs, monkeys, elephants and the many other species of wildlife you can see; mountain biking across jungle streams and water falls to ancient burial jar sites which still hold the mystery of who and why they were created; tour boat trips to see a diverse number of different bird species; and refreshing swims in mountain-fed rivers which create beautiful waterfalls near the village. A very special experience is if your tour is around mid November when you can experience the color and excitement of our local Water Festival ceremony. And because we are interested in cultural exchange, you will probably be happy to share your experience by participating in English lessons during the evening classes for the poorer villager’s children and CBET service member students. You can also tour our classroom and photograph our happy students and so make a special souvenir of your time here.
Chi Phat Commune is physically located southwest of Phnom Penh city, Cambodia. It is one of the Thmor Bang District’s communes in Koh Kong Province with total population about 500 families. It is divided into 4 villages such as Chi Phat village, Toeuk La Ork village, Cham Sla village and Kom Lot village.
Most residents have always lived on their farms, and hunt wildlife for food; hunting has now been made illegal. It also has a local market area, which is dominated by Vietnamese, Chinese and other venders which come from many different places. You can buy something from the local market with dollars or Cambodian currency. The exchange rate here is about 1$ equal 4000 Riels. The people are friendly but they do not understand English very well, or not at all; the CBET organization’s staff gaining English with the help of facilitators from the Phnom Penh office. The climate is very warm during the days and pleasantly cool at night, particularly in December and January. The village even has cell phone coverage especially for 012 and 016 (Cambodian Mobitel and Hello companies); foreign visitors also report their roaming phones from overseas have good reception. The CBET office and guest house also has wireless Internet available.
Chi Phat is named after a holy man named So Phat. It was called So Phat Village. It was changed into Chi Phat because in Cambodian Culture someone who is a sanga, (a holy man) is called Chi. this location comes from the story says: So Phat was a King. One day he was separated from his brothers by a terrible storm while trekking in the jungle near Stroerng Prath Stream and then he lost his way in the jungle to reach this area.
He had decided to be a Sanga since he could not find his way home. after that the recue team came seek for him, and reach the same place to camp living here. Long time later on, they captured him as a holy man and invited him to be a village’s head from then on.
In 1979, there were only 10 families in this village. They made a living by trading fish for rice from Viet Nam soldiers (at that time this village was supervised by Viet Nam administration). In 1993, after the free market opened, this village started to increase its population. People came from everywhere in Cambodia because it was a good place to log. Now this village has a static population of 180 families.
Chi Phat in Pol Pot regime
In Pol Pot regime Chi Phat was a base village. This meant that the village had a hospital and a factory and the villagers had enough rice. However, they were forced to live in a special site (where the local market of Chi Phat is now). The female and male were not allowed to live together (there were two pavilions; one for women and one for men). The people were patrolled by soldiers every night. They were waked by bell at 4 am in the morning to assemble before farming.
They were sent to work for 12 hours a day at the Bald Mountain farm and to another farm on the other side of the river in Toek La Ork Village. There were only 800 dwellers living and working in Chi Phat during that time. Majority of them were taken at rifle point to a killing field in Toek La Ork and Tmar Domrey without good reason. They were replaced by the people from other villages. The people also worked extra around their home to grow the cassavas.
The street here Chi Phat was constructed in 1976. The Khmer Rouge brought 5 tractors in order to transport the food grown in Chi Phat.
After Pol Pot collapsed, this village was under supervised by Vietnamese troops. And it was restructured into Commune with 4 villages, Chi Phat village, Cham Sla village, Kam Lort and Toek La Ork village. The people started to boom up increasingly in 1993.
More infos: http://www.ccben.org/Chiphat.html
History related to Chi Phat Area: Folk Tales and the Origin of Place Names
Once up on a time, there were 3 brothers who were kings. They always had different interests in their lives: the oldest brother king was Sdach Sneng Krobey was interested in war and cared only about treasures and control of his kingdom. The Middle brother was named Minn. He did not care so much about kingly duties, but instead he liked jungle trekking and hunting. The youngest brother king was Sophat, and he was very spiritual, and liked doing good deeds and meditating. Despite their very different personalities, they loved each other and often spent time together.
One day, the three brother kings decided that they would make an excursion into the jungles of their kingdom by a riverboat to enjoy birds, monkeys and the other wildlife of their kingdoms. They decided that they would make this journey all by themselves, and left behind servants and guards, preparing a boat for themselves alone.
They started on their journey the next day very early in the morning, navigating their boat along the Pi Phot stream (which we now call Stoueng Chi Phat) which is a large sea inlet. As the journey progressed they were very happy as they viewed the scenery, especially the new forests they were planting on the both sides of the river. They moved up the river as night fell and were surrounded by dull clouds like the fogs of December, and they began to feel quite chilled. As the new day dawned, to their amazement, they saw a scarlet ball of fire which at first they thought was the sun rising in the east, but which moved about on the river from shore to shore like a scarlet piece of the fire, and its light created a rainbow of 7 colors in the mists of the waves their boat made. Sophat, the youngest, said “Let’s have breakfast, it is suitable time to have it now” and unpacked their meal, a traditional rice pack covered by the banana leaves. After a breakfast on the beautiful morning, they continued their boat journey until they reached another stream, the Stoeung Khse Sonthoeung Prath (which we now call Stoeung Prath) where they docked their boat and made a camp, then began a day of jungle trekking.
The three brother kings had a wonderful day of trekking, watching the birds and monkeys and other animals, and in the late afternoon they returned to their camp by the side of the stream. The three brother were very tired from the trekking as they relaxed under a pavilion of palms, but they were also very excited and could not sleep, and also the sounds of the jungle – leaves whistling as they were blown by wind, and the many and varied calls and voices of the jungle creatures both near and distant – kept them awake. It was then that So Phat decided to tell a story, and asked his oldest brother: “Brother! Do you know why this inlet is called Stoeung Khse Sonthoeung Prath? I know the old story but was so excited this morning that I forgot to tell you about it!” The oldest brother replied. “Well, do not delay, please tell us this old story at once!”
SoPhat then told the story of Prah Kor and Prah Keo.
A long time ago, this place at the Stoeung Khse Sonthoeung Prath was where Prah Kor and Prah Keo’s hid from the King of Siam Kin after Prah Kor, the magical bull of Lovek, lost a fighting competition with Siam’s bull. As you know ( SoPhat said) Prah Kor was the champion fighting bull of Lovek, and the Siam king was jealous of the Khmer people for having this great bull. When Prah Kor was defeated by the Siam bull, the King of Siam wanted to capture Prah Kor and take him away to further humiliate the Khmer people. It was at this place on the stream that Prah Kor tried to hide among other cattle from the King. But the King of Siam’s fortune teller predicted that Prah Kor would be hiding in this place, and soldiers came to capture Prah Kor with magic ropes that Prah Kor could not fight. As a result, Prah Kor was captured by Siam at this very place on the stream Stoeung Khse Sonthoeung Prath.
The brothers were so interested in the story telling that they did not notice how the weather was suddenly turning into bad. The sky became abnormally dark, lightning flashed, and thunder sounded loudly over the jungle. The brothers became afraid and trembled, and they embraced each other for protection and comfort. A heavy rain started to fall like the downpours of the rainy season. Even though it was only late afternoon, a darkness came upon the land and suddenly a terrible tempest arose which physically picked up the brothers and tossed them through the air, where they fell into unconsciousness.
It was early the next morning when the oldest brother king awoke, and looking around him, sobbed bitterly because such is a human’s destiny! To be born as a king but still to bear such grief! Is this a punishment from something we have done?” The oldest brother king stayed in that place and wept, because he thought he would never see his brothers again.
But when Minn, the middle brother awoke, he found the great tempest had flown him many miles from the camp along the Stoeung Khse Sonthoeung Prath. Minn began to try to return to that place, but could not find the trail in the jungle. But Minn did find a place that was rich in elephants, and there was a big pond. With his morale flagging and believing he would never find his way back to his palace, Minn made his mind up to settle there and to live as a simple hunter, and to put aside his memories of his past life as a king. Today we call the pond and place where Minn settled Trapeng Taminn (Minn’s pond). There is also another pond nearby, to which Minn often brought tusks to wash, and is called Trapang Tram Phluk.
What happened to So Phat, the youngest brother king? In the storm So Phat was swept by the floods of the wild rainstorm onto an island full of Chak trees. This island was normally flooded deeply, but like a miracle, the flood was lessened and provided So Phat with a place to stand out of the rising water, and the miracle was because of So Phat’s spiritual nature and his many good deeds. Also, the island was magical and actually floated on the river! The island that So Phat’s life was saved on is called Koh Trapang Vong.
Sophat was on the island for a week without food. Fortunately, the island was brought to the river bank by a school of dragon fish. So Phat left the island and made his way onto the riverbank and into the jungle, but he still couldn’t find the way to his palace. He missed his brothers so much, and he wandered aimlessly in the jungle because of his sadness. Eventually, he reached a hill that is near Chi Phat village, and came to a river called Chhay Chray or Chhay Chray Samathi, which had many rapids. This place was quite beautiful by the rapids. In the Sangkum Reas Niyum Regime, many Durian trees were grown here, and so some people called this place the Rapid of Durian (Chhay Thurian).
SoPhat gave up finding the way to his palace, and he decided to stay by this river and do yoga every day to and to use his spiritual mind to try and find his brothers. He sat every day in meditation under a large shade Banyan tree by the rapid. Nearby the rapids was a high waterfall of some 6 -12 meters. SoPhat would go to the waterfall and take a handful of the water flowing down. One day as he did this, he cried “If I will never see my brothers again, I wish my heart would be made content by seeing creatures of the jungle that I so love”. Suddenly, a flock of deer appeared and drank water at a rapid by the waterfall. This seemed like an answer to his prayers, and so the waterfall where Sophat made his wish with a fistfull of water is called Chhay Toek Viet, or Holy Water Rapid), while the rapid where the deer were drinking, is called the Chhay Konn Kdann, or the Fawn Rapid. At this rapid today you may be able to see a rock that is like the figure of a fawn.
But back in the Kingdoms of the three brother Kings, royal officials at the Palace had immediately become worried about the disappearance of the king brothers during their journey hiking. The Palace officials made search groups in order to find them, but after a long time they found only the oldest king, and even the older brother king had no idea where Sophat and Minn were.
The search for Minn and Sophat wasn’t easy. Months ago the rescue teams went out; they went through out the canopy forests and savanna grass land, and searched all the streams. They came to one stream there were very large rapids where they fell and lid along so they called it The Buttock Rapid (Chhay Ors Kuot). This rapid was only 2 killometers from Chi Phat, and many of the Chi Phat villagers came to swim and bathe or take refreshment almost every evening. But the search teams still couldn’t find Sophat, nor Minn. They lost their way in the jungle; some of them were eaten by tigers, and the place where they were attacked by tigers was called The Tiger’s Waiting Place (Peam Cham Tak). Another team could not find enough food as they searched, so they decided to stop and camp to hunt for food. This place by a stream was rich in catfish, which they caught and ate, and they called the stream O Spot.
After a long time, the searchers came to exactly the place where Sophat now lived and found him, but they didn’t recognize Sophat. To test that Sophat was the young brother king that they searched for, they decided to stay and live in this place themselves. The searchers lived there for many years and became settled in that place, and they married with the local villagers until the place became a huge village. After many, many years they came to realize that Sophat was the lost brother king that they searched for, and SoPhat was invited to be a leader of the village. The village was first called Sophat village, but then became known as Chi Phat which refrred to SoPhat as a holy man.
The oldest brother king never heard that the searchers had found his young brother because that team stayed in the place called Chi Phat, and for many years he worried about his lost brothers. He decided to search for his brothers on his own, but he went out disguised as a simple peasant farmer as he stayed in a village he came to on his search. During his stay he sought refuge with an aged couple, and he stayed there for many months. The oldest brother king was very interested in the house of the aged couple because it had very smooth clean floors made from betel nut tree; the oldest brother king named this village Cham Sla Village. This Cham Sla village was originally located in Areng zone, Thmor Donpov commune, Thmor Bang district, Koh Kong province. But in the Pol Pot regime the villagers were taken by the Khmer Rouge to new location, which is near Chi Phat now.
The oldest brother king decided to leave Cham Sla to continue his search for his brothers, and he journeyed to another village. The villagers in this new place craft a living as farmers and vendors. Among the vendors were a majority of females who sold Loert sweets, and the oldest brother king became very fond of this delicious sweet. For that reason the village became known as Phuom Loert ( Loert sweet village); and after that it became Komloert village.
After many months of searching on his own, the oldest brother king still couldn’t find his brothers, so he went back to his palace very sad and despondant.
As time went on, the whole country became involved in war when Siam invaded the oldest brother king’s country. The oldest brother king and his army could not win against the Siam, and the Siamese army eventually took over the oldest brother king’s palace. The oldest brother king ordered that all the royal property was taken away to hide in different places. Some treasures were carried on boats, and some was buried in the pond near his palace. The pond where he buried his treasures is called a Treasure Pond (Tra Pang Kom Nop), and the stream where his boats carried away the is called a Boat Stream (Tra pang Touk). The oldest brother king himself fled to a separate and secret hideout.
The Siamese armies overcame the population and gathered the kingdom’s people together. They made them slaves and forced them to speak Thai; if didn’t do so they were assassinated. The place where this happened to the Khmer villagers was at a plateau village called Siem Krom, but long after the Siamese left this village’s name was changed because the people hated this background, and the village name was changed to Toeuk La Ork village. The name refers to heavy rainfall which made the water in the ponds of this village murky.
Not all the villagers were captured by the Siamese; a number went hiding in the jungle near a stream and made a living on hunting wildlife and weaving the silk cloths and Kramas. When the war with the Siamese finished they returned back to their home town, but then the village was populated by new dwellers, who had named Loom Village (Phuom Okey) because it had many weavers.
The oldest brother king was not very lucky in hiding from the Siamese. The brother king was very scared as the Siamese came closer to his hiding place in a large buffalo’s horn, and he was found and killed by the Siam.
What happened to the treasures of the oldest king that he had taken with him to the hideout? After he was killed by the Siam, the oldest brother king’s soul went back to the aged couple that he had lived within Cham Sla Village. The oldest brother king’s spirit appeared to the aged couple in their dreams and it said “Do you recognize me? I am the one who used to stay at your house. I think you both are good people, you are very poor, but what good people you are, as you are both so honest. Let me tell you where to dig and find my treasures my treasures”. The aged husband of the couple woke trembling. “What is the matter?” his wife asked. “I have had a dream that the oldest brother king Sdach Sneng Krobey let us to dig his treasures” the husband whispered into his wife’s ear. “I also had this dream!” his wife replied. At the dawn the next day the couple went away from their cottage, and spotted the track of the trail as was in their dream. They came to the place they were shown in the dream, and they dug quietly. Immediately they saw a big basket within full of valuable silver and jewelry. They rushed to dig at another field following their dream, and found a big jar full of gold.
But suddenly as the aged couple dug the treasures, the ground beneath them began to shake in a large earthquake, and the treasures were consumed by the trembling earth. The aged couple became afraid and ran away. The villagers saw this and asked the old couple what had happened, and they told the villagers the story of the dreams and finding the treasure. So from then on, the fields were called Silver Field (Veal Brak) and Gold Field (Veal Meas). Other people also call these fields Veal Ta Meas and Veal Ta Bra. These fields are about 13 kilometers from Chi Phat.