THE man who just got the Second Prime Minister's blessing to explore the preservation
of 70 percent of Cambodia as a World Park is convinced it's a sound alternative to
selling the forests in one-off concessions to foreign loggers.
"It makes better business sense for the Government to back our idea of a World
National Park than to sanction timber deals which bring in a billion dollars of revenue
at one time," said Marshall F. Perry, director of the Society for Ecology and
Perry said the Society, which had lobbied Cambodian leaders since May 1995 to turn
the country into an eco-tourism driven economy, had just won the backing of Hun Sen
- together with the support of King Norodom Sihanouk, sixteen ministries, and two
public councils - to launch an 18-month $2.7 million feasibility study beginning
In a Mar 29 letter to Perry, in which he turned down its invitation to act as "high
official patron", Hun Sen endorsed the conservation campaign.
"The World National Park Program...is very important, in preventing environmental
disaster and in saving the wildlife of Cambodia," Hun Sen wrote.
Perry conceived of the idea when the Ministry of Environment commissioned the Society
to draft a management plan for one of the national parks last year.
"We went down to King Sihanouk National Park to take a look at it, and found
that the Cambodian military was logging it," he said. "It was very depressing
Perry professed to being a firm believer in working with - rather than against -
the government to keep Cambodia green. "I came up with the idea that the only
way to protect the environment here is if we have a 100 percent commitment from the
government to protect the forests... There is no halfway measure."
The only way to get the government to stop felling trees, said Perry, is to give
it an economic alternative and a far better incentive for protecting them.
In his view, it is counterproductive for conservationists to simply tell Cambodians
that logging is environmentally destructive, especially when they are strapped for
"Until we presented them with a viable alternative, the realities demanded that
they cut down the forests, because they needed the money.
"You motivate Cambodian leaders to go for the park in the same way they are
motivated sell the forests off wholesale - for economic profit.
"So we came up with an idea about how the government could make a much greater
return off of Cambodia's timber resources through conservation rather than logging.