Following a visit of ambassadors from the region to local silk farms, Asean nations are mulling over the possibility of turning a very successful sericulture programme in the Kingdom into a regional initiative with the participation of universities across Southeast Asia.
The envisioned Asean-wide silk programme would be based on the exchange and promotion of research on silk-related products and its application in new industries, including the medical field, said Mey Kalyan, chairman of the board of trustees at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), an institution that last year established a successful and innovative silk research centre.
The idea to turn RUPP’s silk programme into a regional enterprise surfaced during a visit of Asean ambassadors to the silk community collaborating with RUPP’s research centre, which is located in Kampong Speu’s Aoral district.
Mr Kalyan said the Asean dignitaries were impressed with the achievements of the silk programme in improving the livelihoods of rural communities and infusing new life into an old tradition and way of life.
“The ambassadors discussed whether the silk project could be taken to the Asean level,” he said.
“They also considered the possibility of establishing a university network in the region to exchange and promote research on silk-related products and the applications in the medical domain,” Mr Kalyan said.
Mr Kalyan told Khmer Times he was honoured to host such honourable guests and to be able to show them their project. “The visit gave us a lot of encouragement and boosted our morale,” he said.
“We would also like to thank Thailand’s Mahasarakham University for their technical support, without which our progress would have been slower,” he said.
Mr Kalyan said the centre’s goal moving forward is to restore silk production in the country to its former glory and reduce the amount of silk imported from abroad.
Panyarak Poolthup, Thailand’s Ambassador to Cambodia, said this was his first visit to a silk farm and the first time he saw the fruits of his country’s cooperation with Cambodia in the silk sector.
“It has been quite an eye-opening experience for me,” he said. “Silk is a traditional product from Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar, and I believe we can do more to expand our cooperation in the sector and add value to our silk products.”
Nhel Sambo, director of Kampong Speu’s commerce department, said now about 400 famers from Aoral district are involved in the project, adding that more are likely to join in the near future.
“Before they were reluctant to grow mulberry trees, as the market wasn’t guaranteed. Now, however, with the support of RUPP and Asean neighbours, accessing the market is much easier. I call on Kampong Speu’s citizens to take the opportunity and start growing mulberry trees to supplement their incomes,” Mr Sambo said.
Ea Hoknym, the leader of the silk community at Aoral, said he is proud to be contributing to the revival of sericulture in the country.
He said that silk production in his community can only increase thanks to the efforts of RUPP’s research centre and the addition of a subject on silk and its production to the university’s curriculum.
“By the end of the year, we will install a big silkworm rearing machine that will strengthen the capacity of our community to produce silk and boost the sector,” Mr Hoknym added.