Rom Chek commune of Kampong Cham province’s Memot district is home to many Cambodian-Muslim farmers. A major concern for many of the parents in this and other remote, rural areas like it is a lack of proper schooling for their children. However, their plight has been noticed and help has been forthcoming. Ashary Saleh, the president of Cambodian Muslim Cooperatives, said that after seeing the difficulties of Cambodian Muslims in rural areas, he decided, in the noble tradition of charitable works throughout Islamic history, in early 2009 to set up a humanitarian association to seek support from philanthropists across the country and overseas to support Cambodian Muslims who are faced with problems, especially in securing a positive future for their children.
Since its founding, the association has worked with organisations and charitable people in Malaysia, and regularly visits the villages of the people they have helped, such as those in Russey Chroy commune, Mok Kampol district in Kandal province, Snuol district in Kratie province, and Rom Chek commune, Memot district, in Kampong Cham province. During these visits, gifts, such as food and medication, are brought for poor Cambodian Muslims in these areas.
“Charitable Malaysians supported the building of three primary schools and five mosques through my association,” Ashary said, “The first school in Rom Chek commune has one building with eight rooms; the second, in Trapaing Romeas commune, is a single building school with six rooms; and there is a third in Russey Chroy commune.”
“In addition to schools and mosques,” he added, “these charitable people support the teachers in the schools as well.” The schools’ curriculum follows the government program, and the students include both Khmer and Cambodian Muslim children.
The Cambodian Muslim Cooperatives was founded to meet the increasingly urgent needs of the poor, especially in rural areas of Cambodia where poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, disease, famine and other difficult situations are faced.
The donations of Malaysian people include food for the Ramadan festival for Cambodian Muslims in hundreds of communities every year. After Ramadan, there is the Hajj festival in the 12th month of the Muslim calendar (usually in October or November), during which food is given in celebration of this important Islamic occasion.
“Every year, we receive support from Malaysians to buy 200 to 300 kilograms of beef to share with Muslims during the Hajj festival for three or four days,” he said. “The help we receive goes directly to Cambodian Muslims.”