Ministry of Environment spokesperson Neth Pheaktra expressed thanks on behalf of the Cambodian government to its development partners for expressing their concern over Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary.
He said the government is highly committed to solving all of the challenges happening in every wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia, including Prey Lang.
Pheaktra’s comments came following the release of a statement by the US embassy expressing their concerns about Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary and the ongoing deforestation of Cambodia.
The US embassy said the loss of forest in Prey Lang and throughout the country is linked to several factors, including weak law enforcement and opaque systems of governance.
The embassy said that to address these challenges the national, provincial and local governments across all ministries must be totally aligned in their efforts to conserve protected areas, including Prey Lang.
The embassy statement said that good governance is a necessary component of protecting natural resources while noting that World Wildlife Day will be observed internationally in the coming month.
“Respecting freedoms of speech and peaceful protest are hallmarks of successful democracies, and we believe these rights should protect Cambodians who are trying to preserve the Kingdom’s fragile natural resources,” the statement said.
The embassy said ambassador Patrick Murphy and the USAID director for Cambodia Veena Reddy met with Minister of Environment Say Sam Al and other senior officials to discuss deforestation and the restrictions in place on Cambodians that keep them from entering protected areas to monitor forest activities.
Pheaktra said the government is enacting reforms regarding protection, conservation, modernisation, capacity building for officials and strengthening law enforcement – and it is doing so with a high degree of responsibility and transparency.
He added that recently Amnesty International and Prey Lang Community Network issued a report about Prey Lang that was motivated by bad intentions and was an attempt to sabotage government efforts to protect Cambodia’s natural resources.
“They try to score negative points and exploit those negative points by forgetting about the overall situation with natural resource protection efforts and [the steps] that we have been taking. They pretend to be the nation’s champions in protecting natural resources. But actually, they favor policies that would cause more disputes, anarchy and lawlessness,” Pheaktra said.
Pheaktra said that recently the ministry had been cooperating closely with the National Committee for the Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary with good results.
He stressed that it should not be misunderstood or misrepresented that Cambodia has only one large forest to be preserved called Prey Lang. Cambodia has many other large protected forests.
As of 2021, Cambodia has 7.3 million hectares of natural areas under protection, which is equal to 41 per cent of Cambodia’s total land – all of which needs to be protected and conserved, according to Pheaktra.
“We can see that in the last ten years the protection and conservation of natural resources in Cambodia has improved. We can see that large-scale natural resource crimes no longer exist in Cambodia.
“There are only small-scale crimes that the environmental authorities and our partners will continue to prevent and crack down on. Some of Cambodia’s wildlife and biodiversity conditions remain stable and some are actually improving today as law enforcement against [forest or natural resource] crimes increases,” he said.