Fifty students will help plant 4,000 trees on September 5 at the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s (RAC) Techo Sen Russey Treb park in Chheb I commune of Preah Vihear province’s Chheb district.

During the dry season this year the forest caught fire and around 70,000 trees on 250ha of land went up in flames, including around 6ha of forest belonging to the Techo Sen plantation.

Sot Samnang, the Techo Sen Russey Treb park director, said RAC students and Kampong Speu Provincial Administration officials will all gather for the ceremonial planting of the first hectare of saplings.

“The Thnong [Pterocarpus macrocarpus] trees on the plantation that burned have grown again already. They’ve been burned three times but they still grow again because the species is very tough and very stubborn,” he said.

Sot Samnang said Prime Minister Hun Sen planted the first tree at the park, when the conservation work there originally began in May of 2018, but frequent forest fires in the area had slowed progress.

“We need to plant more at this point and with 4,000 trees we can plant a lot more than one hectare,” he said.

According to Academy president Sok Touch, the participants in the ceremony will include Vei Samnang – doctoral candidate at the RAC and the governor of Kampong Thom province.

Samnang told The Post on September 1 that due to his love of nature and the fact that he used to work in forest conservation, he had a strong personal desire to see projects like the plantation flourish despite his efforts to refocus his energies on the business of governing a province.

“Planting trees is about increasing forest cover. Although there are still loggers, one way to counter the ones we aren’t catching is large-scale replanting efforts. If we don’t plant and replant again and again, one day we will wake up and find we’ve lost our forests due to their selfish mind-set,” he said.

Samnang said that some loggers could be converted to forest defenders by explaining the laws to them and giving them other opportunities for livelihoods, so he called on people to avoid reacting angrily to the perpetrators cutting down trees before first giving them a chance to reform.

Those who refuse to change their ways must have their day in court eventually, but average citizens should focus on planting more trees to focus their energy in a positive way, he said.

“When we plant a tree, I believe each one is like a wake-up call to those misguided few who make the mistake of cutting them down,” he said.