Interior Minister Sar Kheng urged authorities on Thursday to protect Prey Lang forest, saying it is the largest remaining woodland in mainland Southeast Asia, and that amendments to laws that protect natural resources would soon be finalised.
Presiding over a swearing-in ceremony for new Preah Vihear provincial governor Prak Sovann, Sar Kheng said: “We still have the forest in Prey Lang – let’s not lose it. It is considered the largest in mainland Southeast Asia.
“If we protect the forest, it will be great for our natural resources.”
Sar Kheng said he was tasked with reforming the law on the protection of natural resources some 10 years ago by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The law, he said, had not yet been passed because of the protracted nature of discussions, but he said it was about to take effect.
Sar Kheng referred to 14 people who were arrested in April for encroaching on state land in the Kulen Prum Tep Wildlife Sanctuary. He said he had already asked for the return to local residents of 1,900ha of the disputed land.
The minister also instructed provincial authorities to educate residents not to log timber in Thailand because the Thai authorities have strict forest protection laws. He said their laws allowed authorities to shoot to kill without waiting for court approval.
The Ministry of Interior had discussed the matter with Thailand, Sar Kheng said, asking it not to kill any Cambodian people, but he said his Thai counterparts insisted that that is their law and requested Cambodia to explain the facts to its citizens.
Sar Kheng said some Cambodians had entered Thailand to log high-grade Krahnoung wood, but others were perhaps only guides because some of those arrested came from Prey Veng or Svay Rieng provinces and were unaware of Krahnoung or Thnong trees.
Ministry of Interior secretary of state Ngan Chamroeun said on Thursday that the relevant ministries are speeding up the drafting of the law to protect natural resources.
He said the three current laws do not provide sufficient power to sub-national authorities and instead left the responsibility to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Environment.
Chamroeun said the Forestry Law and the Fisheries Law are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, while the Law on Nature Preservation falls on the Ministry of Environment.
“We have been discussing with the joint working group to make amendments with the main purpose of ensuring proper management of our natural resources."
“The Royal Government intends to give greater responsibility to sub-national authorities. We also want to clearly divide oversight between the Ministry of Environment and The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,” he said.
He said that according to the three existing laws, the government could only transfer power to sub-national administrations with the cooperation of the Forestry Administration and the Fisheries Administration.