The inaugural group of SFS Cambodia & Vietnam students have already in their first three weeks of classes and field adventures had many wonderful experiences interacting with Cambodian communities and learning about the local culture. Yesterday was no exception as I led students on a field trip for the Environmental Ethics and Development course. We were investigating the theme of population and development and visited the very traditional rural community of Tani Village and the recently established resettlement “eco-village” of Run Ta Ek approximately 35km from Siem Reap.

At Tani village the students were able to walk through and observe part of the village which is located on and around an Angkorian kiln site. 10th century pottery fragments were scattered on the ground just meters from houses. We discussed the potential ethical issues surrounding development of a village community on one of the first sites of Angkorian pottery production ever discovered along with the considerations of sustainable development and management of protected sites.

Students also visited the resettlement site of Run Ta Ek which was established by the APSARA National Authority to allow voluntary resettlement of communities outside the Angkor Park. Before visiting the site, students had the benefit of hearing first hand from a senior Government official how the Cambodian Government is dedicated to maintaining the population size or minimizing population growth within the World Heritage Site in order to protect the cultural landscape. Students were able to consider the challenges and potential implications of managing communities within protected areas and through first hand experiences understand the development issues facing Cambodian communities today.