- February 9, 2021 5:35 AM
- June 28, 2021 5:59 PM
- March 7, 2022 9:11 PM
PHNOM PENH -- The Cambodian government has cancelled a development project around the Phnom Tamao conservation area that had triggered a widespread reaction in and out of the country.
Following a series of requests to the government to save the forest around the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote on his Facebook page on Aug. 7 that the Cambodian authorities were cancelling the development project in that area and stopping all forest-clearing work.
As the head of the government, Hun Sen said, he was issuing an order to cancel all authorizations for exchange and project development.
“Save the land and forest around Phnom Tamao Zoo as the land is to be protected and conserved by the Ministry of Agriculture,” he wrote. “The company that cleared the land must stop its activities and replant the trees on the cleared land.”
Tycoon Leng Navatra of the Galaxy Navatra Group and Galaxy Navatra Investment wrote on his Facebook page on Aug. 7 that he has asked the government to take over the land of his development project in the Phnom Tamao protected forest.
“I support the government to eliminate all [projects in] Phnom Tamao areas and ask those who love seedlings to plant seedlings with me,” he wrote.
On Jan. 14, 2022, the Office of the Council of Ministers had issued a notification to the effect that 800 hectares of land in Phnom Tamao would be turned over to a private company for development, and that 1,122 hectares in other protected areas would also be reclaimed.
The “Save Phnom Tamao” campaign conducted by a group of young people was launched in early 2022 as Phnom Tamao protected forest land started being cleared for development by two private companies. The campaign soon gained public support.
Nick Marx, director of the NGO Wildlife Alliance, said that he really appreciated the wise decision of the government to eliminate all development projects near the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre.
“I thank Hun Sen and Leng Navatra for making a good decision to return the forest and thank all the people for their active participation,” he said on Aug. 7. This forest will be a good conservation model for Cambodia, he added.
As Marx explained, in his Western country, wild animals are in zoos. Wild animals deserve to live in the forest, he said. “If the Tamao forest dies, wildlife and animals will die,” Marx said, adding that this forest will be a good conservation model for Cambodia.
Heng Kimhong, program manager for the Cambodian Youth Network, said that he was really happy that the Cambodian government had decided to stop all development projects in the Phnom Tamao protected forest following public reaction.
“It’s a good result of public-voice solidarity,” he said.
Kimhong went on to say that Leng Navatra and other relevant parties should plant trees where his company has cleared the forest to restore his reputation.
This case may be a good opportunity for the Cambodian government to become aware of the need to truly look into the negative impacts before allowing any development, he said.
Kimhong added that the authorities should listen to people and discuss environmental activities before making decisions regarding forests and protected land. It’s better to listen to them and their concerns beforehand, he said.