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Minister wants team effort to protect forests

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Veng Sakhon wants the public and private sectors to cooperate in the protection of forests. Agriculture Ministry

Minister wants team effort to protect forests

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon has urged companies that were granted economic land concessions by the government in Koh Kong province to collaborate fully with local authorities in protecting forest land.

Those authorities include the provincial Forestry Administration and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and they can work with private companies to stop encroachments for private ownership, Sakhon said.

Sakhon made the remarks on the ministry Facebook page on Sunday while he was leading a working group to inspect and assess the progress of agro-industrial crop development and agricultural product processing by Greenrich Group Co Ltd.

The company was granted more than 60,000ha of economic land concessions at the Botum Sakor National Park in the province.

Sakhon said he requested that all companies pay attention to the daily health, livelihood and income of workers’ families by creating more agricultural occupations such as raising animals and growing crops.

“Companies must collaborate fully with the provincial Forestry Administration and local authorities to protect forest land and stop encroachments for private ownership.

“Companies should speed up activities to harvest, process and grow crops on remaining land as planned,” he said.

Sakhon said that the ministry would work with companies that intend to support their investment to enhance the capacity of supplying industrial timber products to markets at home and abroad.

“They compete to encourage the use of planted timber products, reduce natural timber use and create and maintain forest cover, create jobs, boost incomes, preserve the environment in the area and the continuity of the national economy,” he said.

Greenrich Group is a subsidiary company of Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), which makes high-grade paper products in Asia and is one of the top 10 largest paper companies in the world, according to Greenrich Group public relations manager Ratana Pich.

Pich was quoted on Facebook saying the company has started a project to plant acacia trees on more than 10,000ha of land in Koh Kong district.

“The company planted the trees for the sake of the environment and to make paper,” he said.

From 2007 to 2015 the company planted trees on 5,877ha of land amounting to 138 tonnes of output per hectare and totalling 800,000 tonnes of timber.

Pich said APP had previously exported more than 110,000 tonnes of timber slices (timber of the company and timber bought from private plantations) and employed a workforce of 2,500.

The company has built roads, schools and clean-water systems. Still, Greenrich Group has reported that the company is facing problems with encroachments on land for private ownership and construction of the roads by residents via the company’s land.

Pich said the company would collaborate with the Ministry of Environment and the relevant authorities to fully assess the impact of the environment on state land.

Koh Kong provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho Hour In said on Monday that he supported Sakhon’s remarks.

He said that kind of collaboration was not only for Koh Kong, but also for other provinces that are having land disputes.

“All companies that are having land disputes with citizens should express a sincere willingness to solve the issues,” he said.

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