Bantey Srei governor lights up district with plans to revive tourism


A few years ago, Banteay Srei district of Siem Reap province did not receive much attention from citizens or tourists. After the young district governor, Khim Finan, took office in 2019, he gradually started to stand out for the improvements made like the installation of public lighting, the development of tourist resorts, the cleaning of his surroundings. and improving the livelihoods of the local population.

When someone walks into Banteay Srei, they can immediately notice the difference, especially at night when the lampposts light up the beautifully decorated streets of the model village of Preah Dak.

The villagers have set up shops selling souvenirs and hygienically prepared food and are ready with friendly smiles to welcome all domestic and international tourists.

Banteay Srei district governor Khim Finan said the installation of solar-powered street lights, including one for each house in the village, is just one of many development projects underway in the district.

“Initially, it was simply a fundraising and mobilization of resources from the private sector for the common good of the local community. The reason is simply that it is very dark at night in the countryside, especially on the public streets, ”Finan said in an interview with The Post.

According to Finan, the lack of lighting caused two main problems, the first being road safety and the second being personal safety.

Therefore, he believed that it would help if every house had a light in front of it, it would improve the overall security in the village and the residents agreed.

When asked about his goals for the development of the district, Finan said his main goals were to reduce poverty and raise living standards. He says in particular that he wants to make Banteay Srei a second tourist hub after the city of Siem Reap.

Finan, 38, was born in Siem Reap, a town in Siem Reap province, where his father was a civil servant and his mother a businesswoman.

He has always been an outstanding student and he now has four university degrees: two bachelor’s degrees from the Royal University of Law and Economics, another bachelor’s degree in international business administration from the American University of Phnom Penh and he even graduated a master’s degree in business administration in the US.

In the past, Finan was a lecturer at the University of Pannasastra and had many different experiences in the private and public sector.

“As soon as I graduated from college, I went to work for an American tobacco company. I was one of the local managers of this company, then I moved on to hospitality and tourism.

“Because I had a father who was a civil servant and a former army officer, I first started as a soldier in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. But I didn’t really like this job, so I took a break for a while and then transferred to the Home Office, ”says Finan.

He says he was later appointed deputy director of administration for Siem Reap province and held that post for five years before being appointed by the board of governors as governor of Banteay district. Srei.

Drawing on his public, private and overseas experiences, Finan is committed to transforming Banteay Srei district by developing it into a major tourist destination in Siem Reap province.

He says his experiences abroad have given him some ideas about possible innovations here in Cambodia, but change can only be effectively implemented if one understands the prevailing circumstances, but one thing that is universally applicable. is to apply the power of human creativity to solve problems.

“My greatest responsibility is to develop the Banteay Srei district with the aim of improving the lives of people in the community. In short, I want to reduce poverty and give people a better life and that is what we see as real progress, ”he says.

Finan says local development requires attention to multiple sectors and cannot be approached from just one angle, which means examining the district’s needs and the district’s potential to develop a long-term vision for the district, and he sees Banteay Srei’s greatest development potential lies in tourism.

“This does not mean that Banteay Srei will depend solely on tourism, but on tourism and agriculture. But I think that if we continue to promote only agriculture in Cambodia, the whole country will be agricultural, but farmers are not a particularity of Banteay Srei because we are not in a strategic location particularly favorable for agriculture ”, did he declare.

Solar street lights are shining brightly all over Banteay Srei as a result of the One House, One Light project, seen here in Preah Dak village in the district in February last year. Hong Menea

He cited the fact that Banteay Srei is in a mountainous area with little lowland and a lack of water that is far from borders and export areas, resulting in higher costs for irrigation and transportation.

Local farmers are used to growing rice for their own consumption without expecting to export it, so it is unrealistic to expect much local development through agriculture, he says.

“If we put tourism at the center and adapt everything to match the priorities of the tourism industry, we will probably benefit by increasing the development of Banteay Srei district,” he says.

He added that becoming the tourist destination requires having a clean environment and that is why the neighborhood is focused on cleanliness.

“Tourists don’t want to visit a place full of garbage and plastic bags. They want to go to clean, well organized places. If they are in the countryside, they want to see pristine natural areas. To make the district a tourist attraction, it is therefore necessary to encourage the understanding of the environment by the local population, a clean way of life and good waste management.

“So we turn to agrotourism because Siem Reap town is right next to the stairs of Banteay Srei district. So if we do it right, we can meet the demands of the local farmer’s market, as most of the city’s fruit and vegetables have been imported from other provinces or even other countries, ”he says.

He encourages the people of Banteay Srei to practice some kind of agriculture to maintain the rural area while allowing tourists to visit their farms and plantations, as he believes that agriculture and tourism do not need to be separated.

“If we all walk in the same direction, we can achieve common goals which involve tourism promotion and the agrotourism promotion work should be easy because most of the people here are already farmers, so if they can be a little flexible, we can do that, ”he says.

Finan says it is important that the agriculture they practice is well aligned with the interests of tourists, which means that they should grow products like yellow watermelons which are relatively expensive and will meet market demand.

He says that in addition to economic development, he focuses on providing public services to people and other administrative tasks such as resolving land disputes, as residents of the area deserve to have officials who actually serve. their interests.

“All of this – if we do it right – will be a real success for the district. At the same time, we will see an improvement in our infrastructure as the emphasis on tourism demands it. We will therefore first focus on areas with greater tourist potential because our resources are still limited, ”he explains.

Finan says another of his goals was to attract investors to Banteay Srei by promoting the district’s tourism potential. He says the ultimate goal is to attract more investors to Banteay Srei, as only investors can create jobs and businesses that can generate income for the community.

“We have also worked on creating a ‘master plan’ for Banteay Srei district. We will need a lot of technical assistance on this, because creating a master plan for development requires careful thought and should be done in consultation with those who have advanced technical knowledge, ”he said. “But making a long-term plan is very important because if we don’t have a map to guide us, our development will be chaotic and we risk losing our identity and the uniqueness of the neighborhood.”

The district of Banteay Srei has an area of ​​approximately 600 km² with a population of 50,000 inhabitants spread over 36 villages in six communes. Most people are currently farmers, but livelihoods in the region can quickly shift to tourism if the right incentives are there, says Finan.

Finan says that the Banteay Srei district has a unique culture and that it is extremely favored by its two main temples – Banteay Srei and Banteay Samre. Meanwhile, there are other special areas such as the sacred mountain temples of Phnom Kulen and many other community tourist spots that could be potential attractions.

“We really want Banteay Srei to become the second city in the province after the city of Siem Reap, while maintaining a strong identity. We don’t need to become a fully modern or urbanized city – instead, we want to develop into a unique Banteay Srei style town with beautiful scenery that residents of Phnom Penh or Siem Reap can come and enjoy with international tourists, ”he says.


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