Soldiers, Singaporean Firm to Plant 6 Million Trees

The Ministry of Defense plans to work with a Singaporean company to plant six million trees in Cambodia that will eventually be turned into high-end perfume, medicine, tea, incense and furniture, an official said Thursday.

One Plantation Holdings signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) last month with the Defense Ministry that would see current and retired soldiers taught how to farm agarwood, which produces a scented resin used for perfume, roots used in medicines and leaves popular as therapeutic teas.

“The reason for this MoU is because we want to join in the improvement of military families’ livelihood,” said Ouk Kosa, the director of the Defense Ministry’s development department, who signed the deal on May 7.

Lieutenant General Kosa said the project would take some 15 years to come to full fruition, noting that Cambodians had dabbled in the agarwood business before. But he said has been difficult to get the raw products to market after harvesting.

In this new arrangement, he explained, soldiers would be responsible for tending the plantations, with the fruits of their labor sold through One Holdings, an established player in the industry with plantations in Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan.

“When the company finished their master plan, we will find a location that is suitable for agarwood,” Lt. Gen. Kosal said, adding that plans to establish the plantation were in their infancy.

However, photos posted to One Holdings’ website show the company’s chairman Benjamin Song and a group of associates visiting soldiers at a plantation—bearing a One Holdings sign—in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nop district.

The series of photos, dated May 7 to 9, also show a signing ceremony, with some 25 military personnel seated across from a delegation from One Holdings, which could not be reached for comment.

The company’s website says the “heartwood” at the center of an agarwood tree, which produces a resin when infected by certain bacteria, “is the most expensive raw material in the whole world.”

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