PM Decides to Protect 1 Million Hectares of Forest

May Titthara / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

Prime Minister Hun Sen has agreed to legally protect nearly 1 million hectares of the Kingdom’s forest land, including the Prey Lang forest.
Speaking during the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport’s annual meeting at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, Mr. Hun Sen said he agreed with Tuesday’s joint proposal by the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment to declare five areas of forest land, covering 900,000 hectares, protected zones.
“For example Prey Lang…it must be put as a protected forest. Civil society should also participate in this movement to protect forests,” the prime minister said. “Any good forest has to be our protected forest.”
Hoeun Sopheap, a representative of the Prey Lang Community Network in Kampong Thom province, said he was happy with the prime minister’s decision and that previously it was communities alone that protected the country’s forests.
“The government will succeed if they allow people to participate, because people have more information because they live in the areas. I hope the next generation can see some bush,” Mr. Sopheap said.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Sao Sopheap could not be reached for comment yesterday, but previously said the ministry will work with communities to protect the Kingdom’s natural resources.
“We will organize a workshop to discuss with representatives from communities,” Mr. Sopheap said.
Ouch Leng, president of the Human Rights Task Force, said that although he welcomed the move to protect Prey Lang, it comes too late.
“We have asked the government to work with communities to control the forest, because before, when local inhabitants went to patrol the forest, they were prevented from entering it. For example, Mr. Chea Heang, a forest activist, was arrested and detained in prison due to his entrance of a protected forest without the authorization of the authorities,” Mr. Leng said.
On Monday, the Ministry of Environment sent a proposal to the government to protect 900,000 hectares of land in five provinces.
NASA satellite imagery taken in December 2013 and published by Open Development Cambodia showed that in 1973, 72.11 percent of Cambodian land was covered by forest. Now, that number is down to 46.33 percent, a figure that includes area occupied by rubber plantations.
According to a July 2015 report from international NGO Forest Trends, most deforestation in Cambodia is due to private companies abusing economic land concessions.

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