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New sanctuary raises concerns

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Trees felled in the Snuol Wildlife Sanctuary in Kratie province. Many are concerned about illegal logging happening in the Kingdom’s protected areas such as this sanctuary. Heng Chivoan

New sanctuary raises concerns

Environmental organisations welcomed the government’s plan to create a new wildlife sanctuary in Kratie province. But they also wondered whether the sanctuary will actually be preserved, referring to what happened to other ‘so-called protected areas’.

On October 5 Prime Minister Hun Sen signed the government’s decision to create a wildlife sanctuary of 50,000ha in the Sambo district of Kratie province.

The sub-decree emphasised that “the ministry of environment has the authority to arrange and manage the Sambo wildlife sanctuary in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Kratie provincial administration.

“Armed forces have the authority to ensure environmental protection, preservation of the ecological system and use of natural resources in a sustainable manner.”

In welcoming the news, Forest Wildlife and Natural Resources Protection Organisation president Touch Nora, however, expressed concern that most of the wildlife sanctuaries have been logged in the past.

“We saw that the authorities, who were skillful in protecting forests and natural resources, had instead conspired with the timber trade to log and destroy forests every day."

“Every time the government designated technical officers to go to a sanctuary, we saw most of that place had been destroyed due to a systematic conspiracy,” Nora said.

The Cambodian government often creates new sanctuaries. In April this year, a wildlife sanctuary of more than 30,000ha was established in Anlong Veng district, Chong Kal district, and Samrong town, Oddar Meanchey province.

However, in February, two wildlife sanctuaries, of more than 110,000ha combined were dissolved. Ministry of Environment spokesman Sao Sopheap said those lands were given to people as social concessions.

Snuol Wildlife Sanctuary had been established in 1993. And Roneam Daun Sam in Battambang province was a wildlife sanctuary since 2003.

Prior to the dissolution of the two wildlife sanctuaries, Sopheap said Cambodia had 51 protected areas and biodiversity conservation corridors covering more than 7.5 million hectares.

He said there were no plans to dissolve any other wildlife sanctuaries or protected areas, and that the government and the Ministry of Environment would continue to strengthen legal measures to safeguard the existing protected areas.

Director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation Chea Hean expressed regret over the dissolution of the two wildlife sanctuaries.

“The government should keep protected areas that were established by royal decree. They shouldn’t be completely dissolved,” he said.

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