The Cambodian government has awarded another large swath of Botum Sakor National Park to local conglomerate Royal Group, carving out yet more land from this ostensibly protected area to hand over to private developers.
The awarding of the 9,968 hectares (24,631 acres) was approved on Jan. 25 this year, but the decision was only made public on Aug. 14 in the Royal Gazette, a quarterly published collection of new laws and announcements from the government. The announcement comes after a slew of new developments have swept through Botum Sakor, prompting fear from residents and concern among civil society groups about the fate of the rapidly shrinking national park.
Situated on the southwest coast of Cambodia in Koh Kong province, Botum Sakor has been largely stripped of the Melaleuca forest that once covered the park. Of the initial 182,342 hectares (450,577 acres) that was designated protected in 1993, today scarcely 20,000 hectares (less than 50,000 acres) remains unoccupied, with more than 160,000 hectares (more than 395,000 acres) having been privatized — mostly for wealthy investors. Satellite data from Global Forest Watch show the park lost more than a quarter of its primary forest cover between 2002 and 2022, and preliminary data for 2023 show the clearing has continued unabated, including fresh incursions into previously intact habitat.