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  4. Interview with Mr. Chharom Chin, Deputy Director, Geography Department, Ministry of Land Management Urban Planning, and Construction, Cambodia, GIS/LIS Lecturer, Royal University of Agriculture

Interview with Mr. Chharom Chin, Deputy Director, Geography Department, Ministry of Land Management Urban Planning, and Construction, Cambodia, GIS/LIS Lecturer, Royal University of Agriculture

The APRSAF Secretariat interviewed Mr. Chharom Chin, Deputy Director, Geography Department, Ministry of Land Management Urban Planning, and Construction, Cambodia, GIS/LIS Lecturer, Royal University of Agriculture, at APRSAF-20 in Hanoi, Vietnam, in December 2013.

In Cambodia, Mr. Chin has played a significant role in almost all areas of space including mapping, disaster management, navigation, and education. He has also contributed to human resources development as an instructor in the university's newly formed Faculty of Land Management and Land Administration, which was established by his ministry to resolve the lack of personnel in GIS and remote sensing fields. Hundreds of students have already graduated and a few of them have now become lecturers.

Human resource development

Secretariat

Can you describe your work with the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction?

Mr. Chin

I am working in our Geography Department. The department is under the General Department of Cadastre and Geography. We are the mapping and surveying agency of Cambodia. We are also responsible for Cambodian space endeavors to date, as no other institution has been working on this matter. I have been working on space efforts since 2000 and I joined with APRSAF in 2001. I am representing Cambodia in the Subcommittee on Space Technology and Application for ASEAN SCOSA, which consists of space agencies from ten countries. I have been a member of that for more than ten years. I am also involved with other space endeavors for Sentinel Asia, which just concluded the JPTM (Joint Project Team Meeting) meeting last week in Bangkok. I am also the contact for Sentinel Asia. I did the emergency observation request, which involves working with the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC), and the International Disaster Charter as well.

Secretariat

Therefore, you are involved in almost every aspect of space utilization and space applications in your country.

Mr. Chin

Yes. I would say that with regard to most of the international collaboration in space activity, I have more or less taken the lead.

Secretariat

In that regard, I think I can say that in your country, human resources are very important, especially for the space application field. Therefore, how would you describe your work at the university and the response from students?

Mr. Chin

I would say that space and technology is very basic in Cambodia, and in general, when talking about space, the students are primarily referring to the use of GIS and remote sensing only. Generally, in Cambodia, only a few universities offer GIS or remote sensing courses. I lecture at both the undergraduate and graduate levels for the Natural Resource Management program, in which we offer the GIS course.

One of my lecture strategies for this technology is to provide all of my lecture materials in English, while lecturing in Khmer. I am not just lecturing on the technology, but also training them in English, including how to clearly understand the vocabulary and technological terms. As a result, they will be able to go to the Internet and look up references in English, which is one of the more effective ways for them to learn the technology since classroom time is very limited. Normally, I assign a tough project so that they have to work hard and look at a wide variety of resource materials. Thus far, I can say they are doing very well.

Secretariat

I imagine your students are very hard working.

Mr. Chin

Yes, that is my impression. One of my students now has two Master degrees in remote sensing; one from AIT and the other from Portugal.

Secretariat

In that regard, international relationships or international collaboration is very important to you, to your students, and to your country.

Mr. Chin

Yes. So far, we have a very good collaboration with AIT and the Geo-informatics Center of AIT, which is also funded by JAXA. Our staff has attended many "Mini Projects" as well and many training activities.

Secretariat

Currently, you are participating in the Space Education and Awareness (SEA) Working Groups. You also introduced the Space Education Seminar in your country. How did you implement the seminar? I imagine it was a great deal of work to host a seminar.

Mr. Chin

Yes, I think the Space Education Seminar is very important for introducing space technology applications to Cambodian children. To develop technology, we have to cultivate students. This has been the main objective of the Space Education and Awareness Working Group (SEA WG), which I joined at the first meeting in Malaysia in 2001. I saw this seminar as an important opportunity, so at APRSAF-19 in Malaysia, I presented a proposal to this working group, who in turn endorsed it, and from there we implemented the seminar.

Secretariat

There were 43 teachers and 56 students who attended the seminar, so I think it was quite successful for your country.

Mr. Chin

That is correct. One of the noted outcomes from this seminar is that we were able to draft science teachers from 26 schools across the country, who had limited knowledge of the space technology or space science. These teachers were not only from the city, but also from the province. In the course, we provided them with both space science theory and practical sessions on rocketry, robotics, and air friction. The teachers gained knowledge on how to develop the teaching material and implement the teaching method, as well as opportunities for hands-on practice and rehearsal. We then let the teachers immediately practice what they learned by teaching the students. Following this experience, I anticipate that they will be able to use this material and technique, or method of teaching, when they return to their schools. The teachers appreciated having this type of seminar in which during a short period of time, they were able to learn a great deal and gain a bit of practical knowledge.

Secretariat

Did you exchange any information with your colleagues in Nepal or Bangladesh, where education seminars were held in the past?

Mr. Chin

From reading about the Bangladesh and Sri Lanka education seminars, we developed an understanding of how they conducted their programs. However, we considered what would beneficial to Cambodians and tried to be a little bit more advanced. We added in rocketry and robotics during last two seminars, as the other countries had not introduced robotics at all. In addition, instead of including teachers, only invite graduate students to participate in their seminars; we have both teachers and students participating in our seminar.

The Space Education Seminar was the first time in Cambodia that space science and technology has been introduced to young children. For instance, without APRSAF, we would not have been able to participate in the Water Rocket Event, an activity of which we had no prior knowledge of nor had we participated in the past. Now, many schools are joining in this activity and many children are very excited. I believe in the last three or four years, some of our students are participating in this Water Rocket Event at their own expense, since APRSAF sponsors only one student, yet we are able to have five or six students attend. This year, we also have two additional teachers who are attending, possibly without funding support for their tickets and travel insurance. This shows the interest of the students in joining in international collaboration with support from the APRSAF.

Message to APRSAF community members

Secretariat

Based on your experience and work, do you have any messages for the APRSAF community members?

Mr. Chin

Yes, I would just like to say thank you to JAXA who has always been supportive in funding my collaboration and my participation in the APRSAF activities. Secondly, I strongly recommend that this international collaboration continue as each day, space technology applications become more crucial to the human race in terms of improving life and reducing the impacts of disaster. International cooperation is very, very important for space technology applications because space has no country boundaries. I certainly suggest that APRSAF continue to support our activities, especially in Cambodia, as we have few resources for promoting space technology applications.

Secretariat

I think it will be more and more important, not only for your students, but for people in other Asian countries to learn about disaster management or climate change through space activities.

Mr. Chin

Of course, yes, it is very important because space technology now plays an extremely crucial role in helping to resolve these issues. Aside from space technology applications, I do not believe there are better tools to assist in disaster management and reduction or in the mitigation or prevention of disasters.

Secretariat

Thank you very much.

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