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New Siem Reap hotel goes green with unique plastic-free initiative

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Khmer artist Pheu Sophon’s artistic masterpiece displayed at Memoire Palace Resort and Spa in Siem Reap province. Hong Menea

New Siem Reap hotel goes green with unique plastic-free initiative

The newly-opened French style hotel – the Memoire Palace Resort & Spa – in Siem Reap, has adopted a plastic-free policy, amid concerns about the effects of its use by the next generation.

And in conjunction with this, the hotel also announced its contemporary artistic masterpiece exhibition themed on the environment.

Starting from its opening day, Khmer artist Pheu Sophon’s artistic masterpiece on the environment was displayed to the awe of many.

Using no less than 7,000 drinking water bottles, they were turned into various other forms to draw the interest of participants who were provoked to put their thinking caps on as they considered the concerns of using plastics in their daily lives.

As an artist who effectively uses water bottles to show environmental effects, he starts from the basics – the design of the letters that make up “Phnom Penh”, pictures of the “brain”, “stupa”, “crown”, “water drop” and “snail shell” etc. which Sophon says reflect the growth of thinking and innovation among the people.

The artist says he thinks a lot about each picture before it comes into existence from his fertile mind.

“Sometimes I see the environment around me and people throwing rubbish away. Wealthy people seem to live without any care, while the poor live life accepting everything that comes their way. But all thoughts emanate from our brains, so what do I do?” he asks.

For his “teardrop” masterpiece, which was displayed in the reception hall of Memoire Palace, Sophon says it relates to a poor family.

Explaining his masterpiece, he says: “Whenever it rains, water drops through a leaking roof. So the feeling of experiencing rain or its leakage through a roof gives one a sense of loneliness or haunting, which is what I have tried to convey through the piece.”

The art exhibition with the theme “Water Shed” refers to water that flows from higher ground and then divides into two, Sophon says.

Anicca Foundation director Marina Pok says “Water Shed” is a very important pig-nosed waterway where one has to decide whether to continue or reduce the use of plastics.

She says the reason for having the exhibition at Memoire Palace is because “this hotel does not use plastics. Sophon too really pays attention to the environment. As a young artist from Phnom Penh, he worries about environmental issues,” she says.

Besides just being in the hospitality sector, this French-style hotel is passionate about creating and introducing activities that help society reduce the use of plastics.

Memoire Palace general manager Nguon Veng Chai says the hotel is so environmentally conscious that it started by producing its own water.

“Now we produce a drinking straw that’s made of lemongrass. And starting from this initiative, we decided to create an exhibition as our commitment to educating participants on the dangers to the environment."

“In the next 20 years, we don’t want our children or grandchildren to ask if our environmental issues were caused during daddy’s generation or grandfather’s generation. Why did they not do anything? And why the next generations are the ones to pay the price for the folly of previous generations?”

Veng Chai acknowledged that “although mankind has not done much to reduce the use of plastics, we can all do our bit to promote environment-consciousness one step at a time.

“What is important is that we help educate our staff first. And when they return home, they can spread the news and knowledge about the need to save the environment to their friends and families,” he says.

For Veng Chai, not using plastics at the Memoire Palace comes at a higher price as visitors and patrons to his hotel come from all over the world. It would be cheaper to use plastics but that will be taking the easy way out, he says.

He doesn’t want the next generation of Khmers to blame their forefathers for ruining the environment, and so he and those of his ilk have joined the movement to save the it.

“As we work in the hospitality sector, we have an opportunity to encourage environmental consciousness among all whom we meet – businessmen, families and others – and in the process, we can slowly influence all sectors of society,” he says.

“If we can think of using lemongrass as drinking straws, we don’t need to buy plastic ones.”

Guests who participated in its environment exhibition even had a chance to taste unique snacks which were made in the various forms that plastics have taken.

The WaterShed Exhibition which shows contemporary artistic masterpieces on environmental issues resulting from the use of plastics is being held at Memoire Palace Resort & Spa.

Located at Phsar Krom Street, Vihear Chin village, Svay Dangkum commune, Siem Reap town, it will be on until the end of the Water Festival on November 23.

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