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Wildlife sanctuary land reclassified again

Wildlife sanctuary land reclassified again

The government has yet again reclassified protected land at Boeung Per Wildlife Sanctuary.

The 350-hectare area granted to Pou Khouch Development Group for agro-industry is relatively small compared to the 19,829 hectares cut from the 242,500-hectare sanctuary spanning Kampong Thom, Siem Reap and Preah Vihear in August, but locals are worried the sanctuary could disappear.

Kong Sambath, deputy director of the sanctuary, said yesterday he wasn’t sure how many hectares had so far been reclassified in the protected area but confirmed at least five companies had been granted concessions to grow rubber.

“If we want to develop it we have to give the right [to do so] to the investor,” he said.

Thuk Kroeun Vutha, Secretary of State of Ministry of Environment , added that research had been done before the decision to cut sanctuary land.

But Chut Wutty, director of the Natural Resource Protection Group,  said yesterday that Prime Minister Hun Sen should stop granting concessions to foreign companies that destroyed the forest while delivering no benefit to the community.

Noun Skoun, a villager living near Boeung Per in Preah Vihear province, said families depended on the forest and could not survive if the government continued to grant land titles to private companies.

“If Boeung Per is completely taken over by companies it will not only be villagers that will be affected, even the animals that live in the forest won’t know where to live anymore”.

Almost 10,000 hectares of the sanctuary have been granted to the Vietnamese company CRCK Rubber Development Co Ltd II according to sub-decrees posted on the transparency land mapping website Open Development Cambodia. Another 2,036 hectares of the sanctuary in Preah Vihear province were reclassified in January for development, according to the website.

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