Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ethnic villagers concerned over Areng Valley roadway

Ethnic villagers concerned over Areng Valley roadway

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A villager walks on a path in the Areng Valley where the planned construction of a new road has caused concern among community members. Photo supplied

Ethnic villagers concerned over Areng Valley roadway

Ethnic Chorng villagers in Koh Kong province have raised concerns that a controversial 20-kilometre road under construction in the Areng Valley will threaten their traditional way of life.

Prime Minister Hun Sen pledged to build the road last August in response to a request at a public forum by social media celebrity Thy Sovantha, who claimed a new road would boost the local economy by bringing tourists.

Environmentalists and locals, however, were quick to point out that the road was just as likely to bring environmental degradation and illegal logging, while providing dubious benefits to residents.

On Monday, representatives of the local Chorng community met with a local activist to air their fears that the road will make the region more accessible to outsiders, who will disturb the Chorng way of life.

“We are not against the government over road construction, we just appeal to them to focus on [making it] effective for the villagers and natural resources,” Hing Pov, one of the villagers, said by phone yesterday.

“When they develop the area, more people will come to live and develop things; our way of life will be lost, and the next generation may not know our Chorng traditions.”

According to indigenous rights activist Ngach Samin, the forests of the Areng Valley are essential to Chorng livelihoods and culture. “In the forest they can collect traditional medicines,” he explained. “They can collect honey and they can hunt wild pig.”

Ministry of Environment spokesman Sao Sopheap, however, dismissed villagers’ concerns yesterday. “[Local people] need the road to improve their livelihoods by having access to places where they can sell agricultural produce and open eco-tourism activities.”

But the villagers’ belief that the road will bring outsiders who will pillage the environment and upend local traditions was supported by the assessment of long-time conservationist Markus Hardtke.

“[The Cardamom forest] is one of the last relatively untouched areas in Cambodia,” he said. “If you have a road, it is easy access to poachers and loggers,” he said. Roads, he added, lead to “land-grabbing along the roads, which means deforestation in the hinterlands”.

If a road is built, he concluded, “you will have business, gas stations; it will be the end for the forest, most likely”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • Second Hungary business forum set for H2

    Cambodia has asked Hungary to provide GSP- (Generalised System of Preferences) Plus facilities for when the Kingdom sheds its least-developed country (LDC) label, as the two countries prepare to hold a second business forum in the second half (H2) of this year to expand trade

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports

  • CPP sets out five primary strategic goals for 2023-28

    The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on January 29 concluded its two-day extraordinary congress, setting the party’s priority goals for 2023-2028. The ruling party’s congress was attended by more than 3,000 members from across the Kingdom, including the members of the permanent and central committees,