Archive for Kampot

Henri Mouhot’s records on Kampot

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , on December 29, 2013 by Thim Kwai

In 1859 the famous traveller Henri Mouhot arrived on boat in the port of Kampot. It was on his second journey coming from Bangkok via Chantaburi. He gave a description of the Kampot of his time in his publication. It is remarkable for it represents one of very few pieces of written information on Kampot around the mid 19th century.

At that time nowadays Kampot didn’t exist; the settlement Mouhot mentions was situated at the western banks of the Teuk Chhou River.

After arriving in Kampot, Mouhot saw the king of Cambodia on one of his ships on Kampot River (Teuk Chhou River). The king was accompanied by one of the famous pirates of the time. Mouhot described the circumstances as follows:

“Behind the king’s boat, in no apparent order, and at long intervals, followed those of several mandarins, who were not distinguished in any particular manner. One boat alone, manned by Chinese, and commanded by a fat man of the same nation, holding in his hand a halberd surmounted by a crescent, attracted my attention, as it headed the escort. This man was the famous Mun Suy, chief of the pirates, and a friend of the king. I was told that, two years before, he had been compelled, owing to some iniquities not very well known, to fly from Amoy, and had arrived at Komput with a hundred followers, adventurers and rovers of the sea like himself. After having remained there for some time, keeping the whole place in terror, and extorting by menaces all he could from the market people, he conceived the project of seizing upon and burning the town, and putting all the inhabitants to the sword, intending then to retreat with his spoils, if not strong enough to hold his ground. Fortunately the plot was discovered, and the Cambodians from the neighbourhood were armed and assembled in readiness to defend the place.
Mun Suy, not liking the aspect of affairs, embarked with his band in his junk, and fell suddenly on Itatais. The market was sacked in a minute; but the inhabitants, recovering from their surprise, repulsed the pirates and drove them back to their vessel with the loss of several men.
Mun Suy then returned to Komput, gained over by presents first the governor and afterwards the king himself, and ever since has carried on his piratical acts with impunity, making his name dreaded by all around. Loud complaints arose from the neighbouring countries, and the king, either overawed by the pirate, or for protection against the Annamites, appointed him commander of the coast-guard. Henceforth, therefore, he became a licensed robber, and murder and rapine increased to such a degree, that the King of Siam sent a naval expedition to Komput to capture the malefactor and his gang. Two only were taken and executed. As for their leader, he was hidden, they say, in the palace.”

Mouhot, Henri:
Travels in the central parts of Indochina,
London 1864
Volume I, p. 184-187

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Kampot / Cambodia’. Read here the whole article on Kampot.

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Kampot Pepper

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , on December 3, 2013 by Thim Kwai

Kampot pepper is famous for it’s taste and quality. In the French colonial times the local pepper plantations alledgedly supplied any restaurant in France with Kampot pepper. And it’s still a famous product of the region; a number of pepper plantations are around Kampot and Kep. But, what’s actually the difference compared to other peppers?  Visiting a pepper plantation and having a guided tour, the question was answered with the difference of the Kampot soil. There is a high degree of a certain quartz in the local grounds. The pepper plants therefore are not different than elsewhere, the plantation owner said. Well, there are certainly different kinds of pepper. However, there are still three different colours of Kampot pepper. There is black pepper, red and white pepper. Where are these differences coming from? It’s not the case that the different colours come from different kind of plants, as one may assume on the first glance. When the pepper corns are ripe, part of the same bunch is already red, part of it is still green. They get picked then together. If the harvest would be delayed until the green corns get red as well, then the corns who went red first would fall down and get lost. So, the bunch is picked as a whole, and in a next step the red and green corns get separated. Both kinds get airdried for one week. The green corns change their colour to black when drying, the red corns remain red. To produce white pepper, part of the red corns get boiled for ten minutes in water; in this process they loose their skin. After that they get dried and gain a white color.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Kampot’. Read here the whole article on Kampot.

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A Sketch of Kampot’s History

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , on October 11, 2013 by Thim Kwai

Records of Cambodian History after the decline of the Angkorian empire from the 14th century on are rare. From the late 18th century there is a royal dynastic record, but it’s more about family history and Cambodian politics in general. Rural Cambodia and the coastal regions are barely mentioned. Kampot was always far from the capital as the center of the state. Kampot region was known as a salt supplier for ancient Angkor. As a town it has no long record. The coastal region was not under much control of the central government, for most of the time there was no land traffic connection to the capital and it was the territory of pirates and bandits. While Cambodia was declining and loosing territories to Siam and Vietnam, Kampot came under Vietnamese control in the first half of the 18th century. Vietnamese presence was weak, they even had to employ Cambodian mercenaries for their support. On what is now the fishing island there was the house of the Vietnamese governor placed. A Vietnamese fortification was built in Kampong Bay (Kompong Bay). The place was mostly inhabited by Khmer, but also by a number of Vietnamese, a Chinese community and a thousand Malays. The Vietnamese presence led to two insurrections, of whom the second one in 1741 was supported by the Siamese and proved successful. The Vietnamese were driven out and after that Kampot remained in the hands of the Cambodians. In the following time the Cambodian king Ang Duong let construct a road between the capital Udong (Oudong) and Kampot. A journey on this road lasted eight days on an oxcart and four days on an elephant. At around 1800 some 3,000 people lived in Kampot, and the first Westerners settled down here, namely a French priest who built a small church at the right bank of the Theuk Chhou River. He managed a parish of 30 Vietnamese families who were Catholics. On the other side of the river was a royal garden which sent durians, pineapples, mangos and other fruits to the palace every year. Trade flourished, and in the following decades it came very much in the hands of Anglo-Chinese merchants from Singapore who were welcomed by the Cambodian king. Kampot was in that time the only connection of inner Cambodia with the seabased trade. British merchants paid a visit to Kampot in 1854 and met the notables of the place. In 1863 Cambodia became a French protectorate. Since France had occupied both, Vietnam and east Cambodia, the former border between the two countries didn’t exist anymore. The Mekong River was now promoted by the colonial regime as the favourite trading route in the region. This lead to a decline of Kampots trading position, and of the meanwhile 5,000 inhabitants 3,500 left the place. In 1885-1887 there was a great insurgence in Cambodia against the French rule. The French military tried but couldn’t reestablish control over the country; after two years of guerilla war they had to agree to compromises with the insurgents. In Kampot were only three Frenchmen stationed and they were easily driven out by a hundred isurgents. When the French navy and later marines came back there were struggles who last for two years. At the end the French army succeeded in a small battle in 1886 and reestablished French rule over Kampot. Kampot’s population in the second half of the 19th century was very much dominated by Chinese. Henri Mouhot wrote already that 90% of the inhabitants of Kampot were Chinese, and that was in accordance with other reports. It seems the Kampot Chinese were somewhat different from the Chinese elswhere in the Cambodia of the time. They were seen as a potential threat for the French rule, and, in fact, the uprise of 1885/87 in and around Kampot was triggered and forced mainly by Chinese. The Kampot Chinese were very aware of what was going on in other parts of the world, particularly the Japanese-Russian war (1904-05), the Chinese revolution of 1911 and the events of the First World War. The French administration tried to restrict information access from outside, but failed, for the Chinese business networks to other countries and China were also a mean of communication and weren’t to control. There was also an empoverished lower Chinese class of coolies and plantation workers in and around Kampot, who were seen by the French administration as vagabonds and (potential) criminals. Sanctions were set on them, arrests happened not seldom. Besides there were also conflicts among different Chinese groups, as well as activities of Chinese secret societies. Generally the Chinese societies were very closed for the French administration and they got little information about what the Chinese discussed and planned. The coastal line between Kampot and Kompong Som (now: Sihanoukville) was notoriously a refuge for pirates and their activities. Henri Mouhot mentioned that for the time around 1860, and although it ceased until the First World War, piracy was then still existent. The Elephant Mountains along the coastline provided many hideouts for the pirates, and they used peaks to watch the sea on the search for commercial ships as a prey. Also banditry on the coastal land route happened. Gangs of bandits also robbed whole villages and plantations. Later, in the 1970s to the late 1990s the Khmer Rouge used the same area as a base for their activities against the Cambodian government and the local population. In 1872 Kampot got a telegraph connection to Phnom Penh; additionally a new road was built. The travel time decreased to three-and-a-half days. Later the road was paved to introduce automobiles. The road was named Route Coloniale No. 17; after the Cambodian independence it became renamed into National Route No. 3, as it is still today. What is now the old market in Kampot is a construction first established in 1905, together with the boulevard and the basic shape of contemporary Kampot. In the next years a waterworks (1907-1910) and electricity (1925) were installed. Kampot town in the first half of the 20th century was a colonial administrative center with a Khmer quarter, a Chinese quarter and a Malay quarter. There were very few Europeans, namely French, living in Kampot. It had a vivid, lively center around the market place, but just a few meters apart the liveliness paled out. When Cambodia gained independence in 1953, Kampot town had merely 5,000 inhabitants. Nowadays Kampot is clearly a French colonial heritage. It dates back to the 1880s and became it’s shape in the years before the First World War. The former Kampot of the time of king Ang Duong, which served as Cambodia’s seaport in the 18th and the first half of the 19th century, extinct after the French colonial administration used the Mekong River as the main waterway, connecting Saigon and Phnom Penh with the oversea water routes.

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Kampot’. Read here the whole article on Kampot.

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Kampot Special Economic Zone (KSEZ)

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , on September 9, 2013 by Thim Kwai

Kampot Special Economic Zone

The area west of Kampot is declared one of the notorious ‘Special Economic Zones’ in Asia. That means that big companies get great conditions for big investment. Usually it’s low wages, no labour unions, no strikes allowed, no tax paid for up to 15 years and low standards (if any) for environmental protection.

One of the grand projects in ‘Kampot Special Economic Zone’ (KSEZ) is the construction of a city for a 100,000 people up at Bokor Hill Station (inmiddle of Bokor National Park), accompanied by a number of big casinos and hotels for the gamblers.

Additionally there is a coal power plant planned at the coastline, producing 3,000 megawat electricity, together with a concrete factory which originally would be run by a Thai investor, but who recently withdrew his plans for investment in Cambodia due to a possibility of political instability after the dubious course of the July 28 elections. Another company will fill the gap. A car tyre factory, a garment and shoe factory, a rice mill and other (heavy-) industries are expected to follow. Traffic will boost, and with it the transport infrastructure.

The construction of a new deep sea harbour in the ‘Kampot Special Economic Zone’ started in 2012 and will be presumably ready in 2014. The overall costs are supposed to be at least 80 million US$, rather 100 million, while the port itself will cost at least 18 million US$.

The first step was the construction of roads and filling land. The port will be 12m deep and be able to serve big vessels of up to 20,000 tons. The main purpose of the harbour will be to transport mined products and metals.

It’s supposed that the port will change the economy and with it the life of many people in and around Kampot; additionally it will have an effect on the whole Cambodian economy.

The president of the KSEZ, Vinh Huor, stated following:

“When our site is finished, Kampot will become a big economic region and it will not be a tourism destination. It will become a commercial area and more transportation developments will be needed in the future. (…) The main purpose of the port is for freight transportation of minerals that will be transported abroad for processing. It’s going to be a big port.” (Quotation: Phnom Penh Post).

Despite all the great political promises for a better future the first impact is already a damage of the fish populations along the coastline. That triggered a first resistance of the local population against the project which led to a delay of it.

There is another port in Sihanoukville with a capacity of 3,5 million tons. In 2011/2012 the Sihanoukville Port turned over 2,8 million tons.

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Kampot – Bokor – Kep / Cambodia by Asienreisender

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , , on June 11, 2013 by Thim Kwai

The province of Kampot in south Cambodia might be the most picturesque and versatile in the whole country. There is the coast of the South China Sea, the southern Elephant Mountains with Bokor National Park, the Teuk Chhou (a river, also: Prek Thom River), a number of limestone mountains and plains. East of Kampot follows the seaside resort of Kep and not far from that the border to Vietnam. Kampot town is situated at the banks of the Teuk Chhou River, five kilometers before it’s mouth reaches the Gulf of Thailand. It’s an upcoming place which develops rapidly these days, but is far not that evolved as many places in Laos since recently or in neighbouring Thailand, which is defenitely ways further in development than Cambodia is. But change is quick here these days. The place inhabits around 48,000 people. Quite a number of colonial buildings are left in Kampot, some restored meanwhile, others are still abandoned. The old French market building has been recently restored and houses now a number of shops, cafes and restaurants. The bigger fresh market is at the other end of town. The eastern bank of the Teuk Chhou River is paralleled meanwhile by a broad promenade with big, old casuarina trees and some figtrees. Most of the old buildings there are restored, including the old market as already mentioned, what was just six years ago still a rotten, dirty, half-abandoned place. Walking along the promenade one enjoys a great panorama view over the river towards the Elephant Mountains. The river provides a microclimate with a fresh breeze and, so far the wind is coming from southern directions (as normally between May and October, in south-west monsoon time), a smell of sea air. Following Kampot’s river banks a few kilometers downstream one passes the splitup of two arms of the river who form the first part of the river mouth. Bordering Kampot’s southern border a Cham fisher village is placed at the river banks. It’s surrounded by remains of mangrove forests. Mangrove forests stretch over parts of the coastlines of Kampot Province, so far they are not destroyed already. The local people are by a certain part Cham Muslims, but the majority is Khmer. Particularly in Kampot town the Khmer dominate in number. In business Chinese and Vietnamese have their place as well. The Cham People seem to live more in the surrounding countryside. This ist just a part of the article on Kampot – Bokor – Kep. Click the link to read all about Kampot – Bokor – Kep.

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