Monks at the Phnom Preah Thevak pagoda, also known as Sen Chey, in Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district plan to plant 50,000 Asian palmyra palm trees in a 60ha community forest to preserve the species represents the national identity.
Venerable Sorn Sean, chief monk of the pagoda, said palmyra palm trees have been gradually disappearing.
“The project to plant 50,000 palm trees is a passion for nature, especially to preserve them as national treasure. Some people are cutting down the trees for sale while some are fell them down for other purpose. We have almost lost all our palm trees,” he said.
“It occurred to me, especially with the spirit of love, because since I was born I have heard our ancestors talk about the benefits of palm trees for society and natural resources as well as our national identity. Most people plant coconut trees and other tree species, and destroy palm trees,” he added.
He said planting the trees was also for the next generation to use as a natural resource and showcase the Khmer identity.
The plan is to plant palm trees in the community forest in Banteay Srei district’s Romchek commune. As of October, more than 10,000 palm trees had been planted.
“I have planted 10,000 palm trees since July until the end of October. We planted 1,000 trees at a time and sometimes 2,000 trees or 5,000. If people donate money or big palm trees, I will accept them and plant and maintain them,” he said.
According to Sean, the community forest has not only palm trees, but many other tree species and plants.
“In our community forest, we have rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis), beng
(Afzelia xylocarpa), thnong (Pterocarpus macrocarpus and some other fruit trees. At first, I bought them, but then people donated two or three trees, which became larger. We have also been given trees by the Apsara National Authority, which has provided up to 5,000 saplings so far,” he said.
He has also appealed to people with technical skills in planting palm trees to help train him to plant the trees.
“I do not know how many palm trees survive as I lack the technical skills. If there are people who know how to plant palm trees, please help with the project. In fact, I want to plant big palm trees, but I do not have money to buy big ones, so I only plant small palm trees or plant palm seeds,” he said.
Venerable Sorn Sean has a dream of people planting palm trees at each house, especially in Siem Reap province on Angkor land, to show to tourists.
Huy Kean, a resident from the forest community, expressed his happiness when Venerable Sean initiated the project.
“People living in the village are happy because before I have never seen anyone planting palm trees. In fact, I only see villagers cut them down. The trees have almost disappeared,” he said.
He said that in order to help this work go smoothly, he and other community members have also participated in planting palm trees in the community forest.
The Asian palmyra palm tree is identified as one symbol of Cambodia, according to a royal decree issued by King Samdech Norodom Sihamoni in 2005.