Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A beauty spot with a gruesome history




A beauty spot with a gruesome history

a cafe, shop and viewing decks
The centre will feature historical and ecological information presentations, a cafe, shop and viewing decks. Photo Supplied

A beauty spot with a gruesome history

A planned information centre and memorial at northeast Cambodia’s Ang Trapeang Thmor wildlife reserve has been designed to give visitors greater insight into the location’s tragic history as well as its ecological significance.

The body of water at the 2,650-hectare reserve, located about 100km towards the Thai border from Siem Reap, was once a natural forest lake used for irrigation during the Angkorian era.

Later, the Khmer Rouge enlarged the reservoir in one of their many massive and ill-fated engineering projects. Of an estimated 50,000 people forced to work on the project, about 30,000 are thought to have died.

Simon Mahood, a technical adviser at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said the plans would do more than bring people closer to nature.

Sarus cranes fly over the Ang Trapeang Thmor wildlife reserve
Sarus cranes fly over the Ang Trapeang Thmor wildlife reserve. WCS/Eleanor biggs

“It will put the current natural wonders of the site in their historic context, allowing people to understand not just what they see before them but what happened in the past,” he said.

“It will be a place of reflection on a troubled history and a positive future.”

Ang Trapeang Thmor is now one of Cambodia’s ecological hotspots, home to some of the world’s most endangered birds and animals, and a protected reserve managed by the Forestry Administration with technical support from the WCS.

Mahood described the reserve as like a “miniature model of Cambodia”, home to painted storks, spot-billed pelicans, a herd of Eld’s deer and, in winter, a quarter of Southeast Asia’s sarus Crane population.

“Ang Trapeang Thmor is unique because these and a suite of other bird and animal species can be easily seen,” he said.

“Waterbirds are well protected from hunting, so huge flocks of ducks can be seen in the winter – something that has been lost from much of Cambodia.”

The new centre – which will feature historical and ecological information presentations, a cafe, shop and viewing decks – was designed by construction NGO Building Trust International and design firm Atelier COLE.

“Initially, the intention was to design an interpretation centre and hub for wildlife observation that would help in turn provide the revenue to cover the costs of protecting the area,” said Atelier COLE director David Cole.

“When we looked further at the site and its historical significance, the brief shifted and took on the added dimension, and the design takes its reference from both the natural and historical factors.

The planned centre will be a place for reflection
The planned centre will be a place for reflection. Photo Supplied

“The building offers a rare chance to pay respects to the sacrifice so many made during one of the darkest chapters of Cambodia’s history against a backdrop of conservation and protection of diversity and natural wildlife.”

WCS has yet to secure the estimated $200,000 needed to fund the project, Cole said.

Apart from being a destination in its own right, the centre is expected to serve as a hub for treks and tours of the further sites in the area.

There are also plans to build another two viewing platforms on the reservoir plain that could then be used as observation towers by tourists and rangers, and for local villagers to offer home-stays.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Quarantine site in north Phnom Penh inaugurated

    A four-building quarantine centre in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district was formally inaugurated on January 6. The centre can house up to 500 people, according to Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng. At the inauguration ceremony, Sreng said the municipal hall had cooperated with the Ministry

  • ‘Beware of WhatsApp fraudsters’

    The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications warned members of the public who use WhatsApp to vigilantly guard against a new trick employed by hackers that involves the use of six-digit codes sent to potential victims via the popular messaging app. The ministry said hackers could