Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Local TV to air film on Prey Lang

Local TV to air film on Prey Lang

Local TV to air film on Prey Lang


A screen shot from the documentary ''Cambodia: Forests, Water, Life''. Photograph: Allan Michaud

In a surprising move, a news station has agreed to broadcast a film that presents some difficult truths about the impacts of deforestation on Cambodia’s water table, particularly in the controversial Prey Lang forest area.

On Sunday, the fledgling Cambodian News Channel is scheduled to air conservationist filmmaker Allan Michaud’s Cambodia: Forests, Water, Life – a film he says is intended to explain the dire consequences of deforestation in Prey Lang to the government and public without being confrontational.

“It was a pleasant surprise that they said yes. It was the plan all along, but we could never actually be sure that they were going to do it,” said Michaud.

“This is just unbelievable, what we are seeing in Prey Lang. It is going so fast,” he said.

Generally, the programming of government-affiliated networks excludes items that might run against the ruling Cambodian Peoples Party ideology, or that could paint the government in a poor light, pointed out Chhay Sophal, editor-in-chief of the Cambodian News website and a journalism trainer.

“As I have mentioned, the main thing is to look at the vision of the television. If the television owner is close to the government, I think news content produced by the TV, they don’t want to [conflict] with the government policy,” he said.

Like most of Cambodia’s broadcasters, CNC squarely fits the bill. Launched in July as the nation’s first 24-hour news network, it is chaired by Royal Group CEO Kith Meng, a powerful tycoon who has close ties to the CPP.

In clear, simple language, Michaud’s film explains how mass deforestation of the Stung Sen and Stung Chinit watersheds in Prey Lang will have myriad impacts on economic development, environmental resources and social harmony by reducing water flow into aquifers.

It argues impacts will be felt in fisheries, through increased saltation; agro-industry, by decreasing nutrients in the soil; and by a planned $486 million investment in irrigation infrastructure, because the silt will clog dams and channels, decreasing their lifespan.

Villagers will have to dig deeper and deeper to find potable water, the film illustrates through the example of previous deforestation in Battambang province. There, interview subjects tell the audience, they have to drill 30 or 40 metres just to hit water, too deep for traditional ring wells.

The natural regulation the catchments provide to mitigate seasonal weather variations would be destroyed by deforestation, with water escaping as run-off rather than sinking into the water table to provide a slow-release reservoir during drought and an absorbent sink during floods, the film shows using 3D animation.

Finally, it tackles the sticky issue of social unrest from villagers in the area who are seeing the natural resources they live off destroyed and their trees bought up or simply stolen, resulting in large-scale demonstrations such as the famous avatar protests staged in recent years.

Michaud, a veteran conservationist with about 12 years experience in forests all over Cambodia, said he is in no way out to rile anyone.

But he said he was deeply shocked by the rate of deforestation he had seen in Prey Lang and other forests in recent years and was keen to communicate these concerns to higher powers.

“They’re massive areas. Kulen Promtep [Protected Wildlife Sanctuary]… most of Kulen Promtep has now been sold,” he said.

“Ninety-five per cent of Snoul Wildlife Sanctuary has now been sold. Ninety five per cent.”

The most controversial economic land concession in the greater Prey Lang area is the 6,044-hectare ELC granted to Vietnamese firm CRCK, a company which villagers have accused of intimidation and mass illegal logging.

A protected zone in Prey Lang has been touted by the government, but any talk of those plans has grown hushed recently, with Forestry Administration officials refusing to discuss the topic.

Keo Omaliss, deputy chief of the Forestry Administration’s Wildlife Department and a focal point for negotiations over setting up carbon sinks, flatly refused to speak yesterday on whether any progress had been made in establishing the protected area.

Huy Vannak, business news director at the Cambodian Broadcasting Service, which is the umbrella company in charge of CNC, said yesterday he had yet to see the film and so could not comment.

“Before, we used to do the story about the Prey Lang community that staged the protest in Freedom park, but I don’t know any information about this [film],” he said.

In August, the Post revealed that ELCs totalling more than 40,000 hectares in the core area of Prey Lang forest had been cancelled by the government, though questions have since been raised as to whether those concessions ever actually existed in the first place.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Boyle at [email protected]


  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,