Some 68 out of 95 families have volunteered for relocation from the Phnom 1500 eco-tourism site in the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary in Pursat province, paving the way for the restoration of green landscape to serve the interest of domestic and international visitors, said provincial governor Khoy Rida on May 8. 

“Phnom 1500 is one of the most beautiful eco-tourism sites in Cambodia; the people from Pursat and others from across the country have asked that the government protect and preserve the natural resources there as a premium tourist destination. In response to these requests, people who are living there without permission are now required to leave. As compensation, the authorities will find them a new location to live,” he added.

As many as 117 families are reportedly living in Dey Krahorm village, in Veal Veng district’s Anlong Reab commune, the location of the site, which is named for its 1,500m of elevation. Just 95 families have registered with the provincial authorities, while the rest could not be identified, explained the governor.

“The site is of great interest to people from across the Kingdom, and they flock to visit it, but some trees have been logged, affecting the natural resources. This is the issue,” Rida said.

“In the places where these people are living, there is no green landscape anymore, but a village. This means visitors, both from Cambodia and abroad, are taking photographs of people’s homes, rather than natural views. We plan to restore the forest, turning the entire site into green space,” he added.

Due to its stunning landscapes, Phnom 1500 has massive potential as an eco-tourist site. Because of the rich beauty of the forests there, former Prime Minister Hun Sen has referred to it as “Bopha Leak Khluon” (hidden flower). This generated huge public interest and drove calls for it to be protected and for the forest to be restored. 

“Visitors want to be able to relax and enjoy the fresh air and incredible views,” said a May 7 press release by the provincial administration.

It explained that as they understood the importance of reforestation, the majority of the people living there have volunteered to return the land to the provincial administration. 

In return, they have requested that the authorities examine the possibility of providing them with new places to live. 

The release added that a small number of people were hesitant to leave, as they did not recognise the importance of replanting the site.

A small group recently called for the authorities not to relocate them at all, claiming that they had been living on the land for years. They requested that the government issue them with land titles, according to Social Media KH Plus News. 

The provincial administration claimed that it had not ordered any of the people involved to dismantle their homes, but had appealed to them to cooperate with the authorities to safeguard the “hidden flower”, in the interests of the general public.