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Nearly Six Million Hectares to be Protected

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Minister of Environment Say Sam Al has set in motion plans to register almost six million hectares of land as protected under the government. KT/Mai Vireak

Minister of Environment Say Sam Al has sent a letter to the Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction asking to register nearly six million  hectares of land as protected under the Ministry of the Environment.
 
“The ministry would like to ask your Excellency Senior Minister to coordinate the registration of 41 natural protected zones in order to facilitate the control and preservation of those natural protected zones with efficiency,” said Mr. Sam Al, referring to the 5,874,503 hectares of forest which are divided into 41 areas.  
 
On May 10, the Ministry of Environment said a sub-decree had been signed to protect 2,674,503 hectares of land, some of which is in the threatened Prey Lang forest.
 
The Ministry of Environment confirmed that it would oversee the newly protected land, added to the 3.2 million hectares it has protected since 1993.
 
“To efficiently control those natural protected zones, the Ministry of Environment shall ask the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to register those natural protected zones,” a letter from the ministry said.
 
“The Ministry of Environment shall control and preserve those natural protected zones by following the ‘Tiger Skin’ principle of the government regarding the management of the land,” said the letter, referring to the much maligned government policy in which small farms and villages that fall within the boundaries of government-controlled land are granted autonomy, acting functionally as tiger stripes or spots.
 
Sao Sopheap, a spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, said the proposal for the MLMUPC to register the natural protected zones was issued following an administrative procedure in which boundaries of the protected zones were determined.
 
“Such work is to reduce land disputes and to stop land grabbing. When we have clear boundaries, people won’t be able to grab the land. All land disputes happening in the past were due to the absence of clear boundaries,” he said.
 
Ouch Leng, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force, said people did not want to see the kind of land registration that happens only on paper. They want to see efficient implementation of the law to protect the Kingdom’s natural resources, he said.
 
“The most important thing is to cancel and take back licenses for sawmills, wood handicraft workshops, to stop the export of wood to Vietnam and China and especially to ban the governmental support of timber companies,” Mr. Leng said, adding that such measures would move the country toward and protect it from the catastrophic effects of climate change.

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