Rural Organization in Cambodia: A Case Study of a Dishes and Pots Association

Below is a case study of the above mentioned association, which is based in Tropaing Russey village, Tbong Khmum district, and Kampong Cham province.

Community meeting hall, "Salabon", during a meeting

The association was initiated in 1997 by a group of elderly villagers, especially Mr. Sar Pin’s farther who passed away four years ago at the age of 84. He said that the initiative was raised during “drinking session”, by Mr. Sar Pin and other villagers. It is important to note that “Salabon ” (or community hall) has been existing on his compound long before the war 1970. It was repaired occasionally. The association was established to provide support to each other especially to the needy family with materials, dishes, pots, tent and table, chairs etc; to boost the solidarity among members and to preserve the common good tradition in their own village.

Organization structure

  • Three main elderly villagers who help each other to lead and manage the association: Mr. Say Chrech, Mr. Sar Pin and Mr. Luon Heang
  • Mr. Luon Heang could operate the generator and he is also keeping the lists of all assets owned by the association
  • No formal organizational and membership structure in place

Dominant principle of functioning

  • Merit principle
  • Solidarity
  • Mutual support
  • Independence
  • Volunteerism


  • Fee paid by the users, before mainly by the “Chinese cook” i.e. in one year they could receive up to 500.000-600.000 Riels/ investment in buying new materials
  • No fixed amount of “user fee” was set by the association leader
  • Donation from other sources, either as private or via organizations inside and outside their own village

Public information board displays information on donations and income

Information flow channels

  • Informal gathering and meetings of old people in the village
  • Public announcement during religious ceremonies
  • Mouth to mouth

Fixed assets owned by the association

  • Dishes, pots, forks, spoons, and tea pots
  • Tents and roofs equipment which could accommodate up to 150 persons
  • One electricity generator
  • Other necessary materials and equipments for funeral ceremony
  • The association is raising fund to build new hall in a location next to their village, could be future pagoda


What makes them happy?

  • Monks appreciate their collective work
  • Villagers support their course of action
  • Village and commune authorities praise their commitment in local development initiative and support to the poor and elderly villagers
  • Convenient place for elders to meet and talk and enjoy their spare time

What makes them not so happy?

  • Some people would like to keep all what the association has now in the new hall
  • Difference of opinions on this case
  • Lose of solidarity spirit among some supporters

Leaders of the association are happy to share their experiences with me during an interview in 2005


Strong points

  • Good leadership spirit
  • Voluntary membership and supporters
  • Fund raising ability
  • Basic financial management practices
  • Keeping basic records of income and expenses and display it on the boards

Weak points

  • Leadership personnel are working based on voluntary spirit, mostly above sixties years old
  • No clear successors identified
  • Lack of long-term strategy
  • Villagers are mostly poor
  • No financial reserve
  • No clear written regulations

What could villagers and rural society benefit from this?

  • Place/venue for meeting and organizing other religious ceremonies
  • Strengthening of informal network and social capital
  • Solidarity spirit among villagers
  • Experiences and knowledge relating to association practices and community work
  • Sources of relevant information of the community
  • Financial resource mobilization capacity

Some materials for collective use among members

There are plenty traditional organizations like this one existing in the countryside, though they do need to struggle to survive against the power of money and new challenges of free market economy. There is also real needs to revive this wonderful tradition of collective actions and mutual supports for the benefits of rural communities.


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