About 500 Ministry of Environment officials were joined by environmental activists at the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary in Kampong Thom province over the weekend to ordain thousands of trees in a move to raise awareness of the importance of natural resource protection.
Organised by the Ministry of Environment under the theme Valentine’s Day: We Love the Environment and Natural Resources, the event aimed to increase public participation in natural resource conservation, specifically in the Prey Lang area.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said at the event that thousands of trees were ordained and the importance of biodiversity and ecosystems in Prey Lang were presented to attendees to encourage participation in protecting and conserving natural resources.
“We are taking another step in managing and preserving our natural resources for coming generations and must think more about improving local people’s lives, including families, rangers and community residents,” he said.
Pheaktra said to improve the lives of locals, the Ministry of Environment has established communities in protected areas to share the responsibility of management and grant them the right to sustainably rely on natural resources for their livelihoods under the law on protected areas.
Environmental activist Heng Sros said he supported the event, but noted disseminating such information alone would not deter forest crimes if the authorities did not strictly enforce the law against perpetrators.
He said the authorities must monitor the actions of some tycoons and companies suspected of forest crimes, along with smaller-scale operations carried out by residents moving illegal timber by motorbikes in some wildlife sanctuaries in Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Kratie, Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri provinces.
“Law enforcement officials must take strict action against offenders who transport timber and log illegally,” Sros said.
Prey Lang Community Network member Hoeun Sopheap also said he supported the event.
However, he noted his community was also planning a tree-ordaining event in Prey Lang on February 22, but provincial wildlife sanctuary director Ly Sreng did not grant permission for the event or forest patrols.
He said officials argued that the ban was based on a top-down order not to allow villagers to go on forest patrols anymore, and if the community did not comply, officials would arrest its members.
“We also planned to organise a tree-ordaining event in the middle of Prey Lang, but an official forbade us to visit the location,” he said.
“When we questioned him, he said this was an upper-level order. Anyone who does not comply will be arrested.”
Sreng could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 2016 with a total area of more than 430,000ha in the provinces of Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom and Kratie.
Last year, the Ministry of Environment greenlit 19 protected-area communities with the legal right to participate in activities of protection and preservation of natural resources in the wildlife sanctuary.