S ecretary of State for Environment Mok Mareth said he hopes the country's first
new national park in 25 years will be opened in the next few weeks.
Ministry is hopeful of obtaining funds from the UN Development Program to
inaugurate the park in the timber-rich Kirirom area of Kompong Speu
The park would be the first of 23 protected areas proposed
under a decree by King Norodom Sihanouk, which would cover 15 per cent of the
country's land mass.
A ministry official said that the legal status of
the royal order was unclear as it was uncertain whether the King had the power
to do so under the new constitution.
The decree proposed the protected
areas would cover about 3.5 million hectares (9.45 million acres) and would be
divided into four different categories: national parks, wildlife sanctuaries,
protected landscapes - such as the area around Angkor Wat - and multiple use
areas, such as turning Tonle Sap into a haven for water sports.
priority has reportedly been placed on declaring Kirirom, the coastal hillside
resort at Phnom Bokor and the environs of the major naval base at Ream, Kom-pong
Som as protected areas.
However ministry advisor Greig Woodsworth warned
the decree may be difficult to implement.
He said: "It's not just a
question of drawing lines on a map ... these things cost millions of dollars to
Analysts also stressed the problem of mines and Khmer Rouge
guerrillas in these areas, notably around Bokor and Kirirom, which also has a
government military base and is off-limits to visitors without
Co-Premiers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Mr. Hun Sen are
expected to open the park at Kirirom in Kompong Speu province, Mok Mareth said.
He added that it was expected to take place before the King returns to the
Ranariddh has reportedly taken a political interest in seeing
Kirirom - a wildlife reserve of 81,500 hectares (200,000 acres) during the 1960s
- declared the first national park.
Mr Woodsworth's colleague Philippe Le
Billion said that in comparison, "they are not very receptive about
The province covers a much larger area and boasts a much
greater ethnic mix and diversity in wildlife, including the rare
Secretary of State Mok Mareth, who complained about the lack of
legislation to control environmental damage, said the new Kirirom Park would be
nearly twice as big as the old one, covering more than 150,000 hectares (370,500
Under the scheme, a resort town in the rolling pine forested
hills at the tail-end of the Cardamom Mountain would be restored to its former
grandeur of the King's previous reign.
The King had planned to build a
model city at Kirirom, but today all that remains are the shells of some 80
houses overlooked by the monarch's own old villa.
"It's a beautiful area,
with huge tourist potential," said Woods-worth, who received permission to visit
Kirirom and its picturesque lakes last week.
Mareth said logging, which
is devastating other areas of Cambodia, would be banned in the national
Woodsworth said of Kiri-rom: "Most of the large stuff has been cut
down for export, but it's not a catastrophe yet."
The forests are also
rich in wildlife, including tigers and elephants, Woodsworth
Wildlife, including leopards, Malayan sun bears, an abundance of
birds and wild-fowl and possibly one-horned rhinos, are to be found elsewhere in
the country, particularly in the northeast provinces of Mondulkiri and
The ministry wants to establish a national park at Virachey
in Rattanakiri and a wildlife preserve in the virgin rain forest of Phnom Samkos
in Koh Kong.
The search for the elusive kouprey, meanwhile is on in the
northeast, where the king established six reserves in the 1960s with the sole
aim of protecting endangered native species.
Le Billon said they had
reports of a group of seven koupreys, often dubbed the jungle cow, on the
borders of Mondulkiri and Rattanakiri.