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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM endorses World Park concept

PM endorses World Park concept

THE man who just got the Second Prime Minister's blessing to explore the preservation

of 70 percent of Cambodia as a World Park is convinced it's a sound alternative to

selling the forests in one-off concessions to foreign loggers.

"It makes better business sense for the Government to back our idea of a World

National Park than to sanction timber deals which bring in a billion dollars of revenue

at one time," said Marshall F. Perry, director of the Society for Ecology and

Wildlife Preservation.

Perry said the Society, which had lobbied Cambodian leaders since May 1995 to turn

the country into an eco-tourism driven economy, had just won the backing of Hun Sen

- together with the support of King Norodom Sihanouk, sixteen ministries, and two

public councils - to launch an 18-month $2.7 million feasibility study beginning

June.

In a Mar 29 letter to Perry, in which he turned down its invitation to act as "high

official patron", Hun Sen endorsed the conservation campaign.

"The World National Park Program...is very important, in preventing environmental

disaster and in saving the wildlife of Cambodia," Hun Sen wrote.

Perry conceived of the idea when the Ministry of Environment commissioned the Society

to draft a management plan for one of the national parks last year.

"We went down to King Sihanouk National Park to take a look at it, and found

that the Cambodian military was logging it," he said. "It was very depressing

for us."

Perry professed to being a firm believer in working with - rather than against -

the government to keep Cambodia green. "I came up with the idea that the only

way to protect the environment here is if we have a 100 percent commitment from the

government to protect the forests... There is no halfway measure."

The only way to get the government to stop felling trees, said Perry, is to give

it an economic alternative and a far better incentive for protecting them.

In his view, it is counterproductive for conservationists to simply tell Cambodians

that logging is environmentally destructive, especially when they are strapped for

cash.

"Until we presented them with a viable alternative, the realities demanded that

they cut down the forests, because they needed the money.

"You motivate Cambodian leaders to go for the park in the same way they are

motivated sell the forests off wholesale - for economic profit.

"So we came up with an idea about how the government could make a much greater

return off of Cambodia's timber resources through conservation rather than logging.

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