At the request of the government, the King has issued a royal decree to dissolve two wildlife sanctuaries of more than 110,000 hectares in Battambang and Kratie provinces.
The royal decree by King Norodom Sihamoni is dated February 16, but was only disseminated by the Ministry of Environment over the weekend.
It orders the government to dissolve the Snuol Wildlife Sanctuary in Kratie covering 75,000 hectares and the Roneam Daun Sam Wildlife Sanctuary in Battambang province covering 39,961 hectares.
“Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Decho Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, is responsible for implementing this royal decree from the signed date onward,” it said.
Snuol Wildlife Sanctuary was established by a royal decree on November 1, 1993, and Roneam Daun Sam Wildlife Sanctuary was established by a royal decree issued by the late King Father on September 29, 2003.
Sao Sopheap, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, said yesterday that the decision to dissolve the sanctuaries was made because the areas had lost potential as wildlife sanctuaries, with some areas having been provided to people as social land concessions.
“Families of soldiers under the Khmer Rouge went to occupy areas of the Roneam Daun Sam Wildlife Sanctuary,” he said.
“And later during integration in 1998, the government decided to give people the land that they were occupying, and continuously provided land titles to them. So, those areas have lost function or are no longer used as wildlife sanctuaries.”
The government, through an Environment Ministry request, recently created the Sambor Prei Kuk protected area, which covers 438 hectares in Kampong Thom province’s Prasat Sambour district.
The sub-decree was signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on March 13 and states that the establishment of the protected area is to ensure the maintenance and protection of natural resources and preserve environmental stability in the temple area.
Prior to the dissolution of the two wildlife sanctuaries, according to Mr Sopheap, Cambodia had 51 protected areas and biodiversity conservation corridors covering more than 7.5 million hectares.
However, he added that there were no plans to dissolve any other wildlife sanctuaries or protected areas, and the government as well as the Ministry of Environment would continue to strengthen legal measures to safeguard the existing protected areas.
“We call on the public to work together, using the spirit of cooperation, to protect, conserve and avoid committing offences or deforestation. We face difficulties protecting those natural resources,” he said.
Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, expressed regret over the dissolution of the two wildlife sanctuaries.
“The government should keep protected areas that were established by royal decree. They shouldn’t be completely dissolved,” he said.
“They should keep part of it. For example, for an area of more than 70,000 hectares, they should keep 3,000 or 4,000 hectares for a conservation area. I really regret that the government asked the King to dissolve those protected areas because of logging there.”