King Norodom Sihamoni has granted Khmer nationality through naturalisation to American environmentalist Benjamin Joseph Davis and his family for their efforts to protect the forest and wildlife of a sanctuary in Preah Vihear province.

According to a January 26 royal decree seen by The Post on January 31, citizenship was granted to Davis, 56, his Australian wife Sharyn Patricia Lwin, 48, and their two daughters Amelie Charis Davis and Jarrah Camille Davis, both in their teens.

Davis, better known as Ben, is well-known in Cambodia for his work in Phnom Tnout-Phnom Pok Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear.

Reached for comment on January 31, Ben said he was very happy to receive the citizenship as it provided motivation for him to continue his work.

“My family and I are delighted. The warmth of the King’s action in granting Khmer nationality to us has really had an effect on us. We are committed to fulfilling our work in protecting and preserving natural resources in this area.

“Protecting natural resources work is what I and my family love to do. We love this country very much and want to live here for the rest of our lives,” said Ben.

Ben and his family have been living in the Phnom Tnout-Phnom Pok sanctuary for more than 20 years. He has received praise from the Cambodian people and the government in the past, especially the Ministry of Environment.

Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post that the ministry congratulated Ben and his family for their honest contribution to protecting natural resources in the area.

He said the King’s granting of citizenship for the whole family reflects recognition of the family’s devotion, both physically and spiritually to the preservation of the wildlife sanctuary.

“This shows gratitude and appreciation to those who truly love the natural environment,” Pheaktra said.

According to Pheaktra, the sanctuary covers a total of 42,097ha, spanning Preah Vihear and Siem Reap provinces. The family has helped oversee more than 7,000ha of the sanctuary.

Ben, with the ministry’s approval, has transformed the area into a natural eco-tourism area named Be Treed.