Cambodia awards swath of national park forest to tycoon Ly Yong Phat’s son

A Cambodian tycoon notorious for his association with illegal logging has expanded his grip over the country’s largest national park, with a swath of forest awarded to his son’s rubber company.

Once Cambodia’s largest national park, Botum Sakor has shriveled under the gaze of tycoons, whose parcels of land have swallowed up more than 80% of the entire park since 1998.

This land rush has seen a 28% decrease in forest across the 182,342-hectare (450,577-acre) park between 2001 and 2022. According to Global Forest Watch, some 45,600 hectares (112,700 acres) of tree cover vanished during those 21 years, as tycoons and political allies of longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen carved up the coastal protected area in Cambodia’s southwestern Koh Kong province.

Key among these political allies is Ly Yong Phat, a multimillionaire Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) senator, an adviser to Hun Sen, and president of the Oknha Association — a union for Cambodia’s many tycoons, or Oknha — who has been awarded 16,275 hectares (40,216 acres) of Botum Sakor National Park since 2008.

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