Chi Phat is located in the heart of the Southern Cardamoms Protected Forest that has been severely affected by warfare, commercial logging, and hunting. Lying on the banks of the Phipot River, Chi Phat commune comprises four small villages (Chi Phat, Chaom Sla, Kam Lort, and Teuk Laork) of about 550 families. Villagers are using the highly fertile red soil of the area to grow rice, bananas and other seasonal crops.
...We, the people of Chi Phat commune, want a community-based ecotourism project that is developed by our community and partners and will empower our community, attract tourists, and contribute to protect natural and cultural resources and better livelihoods as well as improve infrastructure and the commune environment…...
Chi Phat Commune is named after a man named So Phat, also a King according to the local legend. Once upon a time, as he was walking with his brothers in the jungle, a terrible storm rushed in and So Phat was separated from them. He lost his way in the jungle near Stung Proat. As he realized he would not find his way home again, he decided to become a sangha ("holy man). But a rescue team found him in the jungle and when they realized he had become a holy man, they invited him to be the village head from then on. It So Phat changed to Chi Phat because in Cambodian culture, a holy man or sangha is called Chi.
During the Khmer Rouge Regime (1975-1979), Chi Phat was a base village with a hospital and a factory. The first road was constructed in 1976, when the Khmer Rouge brought 5 tractors to transport the food grown in the village. Although the villagers had enough rice. to live, they were forced to live in a special communal site (where the local market of Chi Phat is now). Females and Males were not allowed to live together and were patrolled by soldiers every night. They were woken by bell at 4 am and were sent to work for 12 hours a day at one of the two farms, either at Bold Mountain or on the other side of the river in Teuk Laork Village. There were only about 800 people living and working in Chi Phat during that time, and a majority of them were taken at rifle point to a killing field in Teuk Laork and Tmar Domrey.
After Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge Regime collapsed, this village was under the Vietnamese administration of that restructured it into a commune with the four villages Chi Phat has today: Chi Phat village, Cham Sla village, Kam Lort, and Teuk Laork village. Villagers made a living by trading fish for rice with Vietnamese soldiers. In the late 80's, during the time of the big logging concessions, the population in Chi Phat started to increase. People came from everywhere in Cambodia to work in the logging business, and at its peak, Chi Phat commune had 1,000 families.
The CBET Project
In January 2007, Chi Phat commune began implementing the CBET project, with financial and technical assistance from Wildlife Alliance and its partners and donors. Chi Phat CBET officially opened to visitors in October 2008 and received Community-Based Organization (CBO) status on October 23, 2009. It hosts one visitor center where tourists can check in, find information, book activities, and dine, a small community center, 12 guesthouses and 9 homestays. A large range of ecotourism activities have been developed together with the community and marketing linkages with local and international tour operators have been established. CBET Chi Phat has been featured in international travel shows, magazines, including airline in-flight magazines, and the most popular and widely-used guidebooks.