The family of prominent environmentalist Ben Davis committed to continue their efforts to protect the environment and Cambodian forests, as they expressed joy at becoming citizens.

The American national Davis, 56, his Australian wife Sharyn Patricia Lwin, 48, and their two daughters Amelie Charis Davis and Jarrah Camille Davis, both in their teens, were granted Cambodian citizenship by a royal decree on January 26. It was granted in recognition of Davis’ 27 years of environmental protection.

The royal decree was officially handed to them on May 14 in Preah Vihear province for his “genuine sacrifice to make a contribution to the conservation of natural resources in Cambodia”.

“Ben and I wish to thank the government of Cambodia and the Ministry of Environment and Preah Vihear governor’s office for their kindness and generosity in assisting to help us become Cambodians.

“It is truly an honor and we hope to continue to contribute to this beautiful country.

Thank you for arranging this event to receive our citizenship,” said Lwin, in a May 15 social media post.

Davis was grateful for the government’s support and encouragement of his work.

“I did not expect to receive this citizenship. I am very happy and thank the government and authorities at all levels for taking care of us. We feel warmly encouraged, and we are completely happy to cooperate with the authorities ... in forest protection work,” he said.

Meas Sophea, head of the government task force for Preah Vihear province who presided over the ceremonial handover of the royal decree, said it was most suitable that the Davis family were granted citizenship.

They were willing to leave their homeland to live in Cambodia for almost 30 years to join the government and the people of Cambodia in protecting and conserving natural resources,” he said.

“The efforts of Ben and his family have attracted the attention of the King, the government and the Environment Minister as well as local authorities, including the provincial governor, districts and communes,” he said.

Sophea encouraged Davis and his family to continue to cooperate with the authorities on the protection and conservation of natural resources, while educating people about the importance of the conservation of the Kingdom’s biodiversity.

Environment minister Say Samal said Cambodia had become home to Davis and his family, so the issuing of the royal decree was a special day for them.

“Ben and his family are among the many people who have come to work in and for Cambodia for a long time. They – along with the rangers from the environment ministry and department and the provincial administration – have made many sacrifices to protect the natural resources of Preah Vihear,” he said.

Provincial governor Prak Sovann said authorities at all levels, including the people of the province, had given full support to the new Khmer citizens.

He advised the police and authorities at all levels to continue their cooperation with Davis in protecting, preserving and conserving Cambodia’s natural resources and to ensure the safety of Davis’ family, not just in the wildlife sanctuary but in the whole province.

The environment ministry said Davis has been working in Preah Vihear since 2002. During this period, the family had sacrificed their physical, intellectual and personal resources for the humanitarian cause of improving the livelihoods of the people, social work, and protecting and conserving the forest and wildlife resources of the Phnom Tnout-Phnom Pok Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear’s Sangkum Thmey and Kulen districts and in Siem Reap province’s Chi Kraeng district.