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Siem Reap bamboo industry thriving due to skilled craftsman

A bird-nest styled bamboo swing produced by Sreup. PHOTO SUPPLIED
A bird-nest styled bamboo swing produced by Sreup. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Siem Reap bamboo industry thriving due to skilled craftsman

Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district is home to a gifted artisan who transforms ping pong bamboo, traditionally used for fencing by local farmers, into premium items including swings, sofas, hammocks, and bird’s nests.

This rural craftsman, Sreng Sreup, a 45-year-old man with a distinguished black beard, resides in Thnal Bandaoy village, Preah Dak commune. Known for his exceptional craftsmanship, Sreup’s products are made from pure natural materials sourced from ping pong bamboo.

Married with two sons and a daughter, Sreup initially worked with bamboo as a way to support his family due to lack of capital for trading. Encouraged by his grandfather, he began by producing bamboo flutes, drums, and traditional Cambodian spike fiddles for sale in their local community. Despite his best efforts, these products found few buyers, leaving him with surplus bamboo to be dealt with.

Seeking a solution, Sreup decided to fashion the excess bamboo into hammocks, swings, bird nests, beds, and other items.

“I don’t have money to start a large business like some people, and my education level is not high. However, I have decided to pursue this career. I observed many forests are being cut down, yet there are not many businesses that utilise bamboo as an alternative to wood. This gave me the idea to process bamboo for commercial use,” he told The Post.

Though Sreup’s journey in bamboo processing began in 2004, it took five years to perfect his craft, initially earning him just 20,000 riel per week. Despite the low income, he persisted with his craft, even after years of working in Thailand to support his family.

Upon his return in 2014, he chose to stay and continue his business in his hometown.

“This time, I have decided not to return to Thailand despite my struggles with selling my hammocks. I must endure in my hometown to be with my wife and children, we live based on our income,” he said.

In the first few years, Sreup’s family struggled as the bamboo products did not sell well. Awareness among people about processed bamboo products was low, and many still preferred wooden furniture, leaving no market for bamboo products. It was not until 2020 that Sreup’s processed products began to gain recognition among people in several provinces, resulting in improved sales.

Sreup produces a variety of bamboo products, including beds, sofas, swings, bird nests, and other accessories. His best-selling item, a bamboo hammock, takes two workers one week to complete and costs 180,000 riel to produce. Sold for between $85 and $150, these hammocks are purely Khmer in style, and their design is not copied from abroad.

“The bamboo needs to dry under the sun for at least six months before it can be processed into a hammock because it is resistant to rotting and decay,” Sreup said.

Currently training five young men to learn his craft, Sreup hopes to equip future generations with the skills necessary to earn a living. His bamboo processing business not only benefits his own family but also provides job opportunities for the young people in his commune.

Phin Thong, the chief of Preah Dak commune, expressed admiration for Sreup’s work and urged local villagers not to cut down or burn bamboo, emphasising its value as a resource.

Tea Kim Soth, the director of the Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of, acknowledged the benefits of Sreup’s bamboo processing business. He highlighted the need to increase the cultivation of bamboo as a raw material for crafts and encouraged communities to grow bamboo for sale and processing.

He affirmed bamboo, which can be processed at both the shoot and mature stages, offers potential for creating a range of products including straws and furniture.

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