Activists from environmental group Mother Nature yesterday cautioned that a proposed road pledged by Prime Minister Hun Sen for the Areng Valley could cause an increase in illegal logging and drug abuse.
At a press conference in Phnom Penh, activist San Mala said the negative impacts of the road would detract from any development it might bring.
“Bad traders are logging timber illegally, so they must be moving the timber from the Areng Valley to market,” Mala said. “The road and the bridges will facilitate the illegal acts of those traders.”
Hun Sen promised the road after a request at a public forum on August 22 by social media celebrity Thy Sovantha, who claimed it would allow residents to benefit from tourism.
But long-time conservationist Markus Hardtke said such roads inevitably led to logging and land grabs. “That’s always the problem – roads are opening up these areas and then people come in and resources go out,” he said.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Sao Sopheap said that although he was not familiar with the specifics of the road, the ministry had ordered authorities to crack down on forest crimes.
Community representative Ven Vorn, meanwhile, said even if the road brought more tourism, he worried the local population would not share in the fruits. “We are afraid the government will offer a licence to a private company and the people will get nothing,” Vorn said.
Additional reporting by Jack Davies