NGOs To Meet Minister Over Protected Areas

Six of the largest conservation NGOs working in Cambodia are to meet with Environment Minister Mok Mareth later this month over his recent comments concerning Cambodia’s protected area system.

Mok Mareth said Tuesday that he planned to meet with the NGO representatives on Dec 18 but declined to comment in advance of the meeting. “When we meet, we will discuss this,” he said.

In a September interview, Mok Mareth said Cambodia should have access to the natural re­sources contained in its protected areas, even if long-awaited legislation could make much of these areas off limits. Cambodia needs to strike a balance between development and preservation of its natural environment, the minister said at the time.

In a recently obtained letter, the NGOs said they were calling a meet­ing as the minister’s remarks to the press appeared to indicate their work has been to no avail.

“Comments by Your Excellency in a recent issue of [The] Cambo­dia Daily would seem to suggest that all the effort so far committed by the government and conservation organizations may have been in vain,” stated the letter dated Oct 31.

“Established protected areas throughout the country are coming under increasing pressure from activities such as road development, mining, agricultural concessions and exploration work. Areas which were once thought to have been wisely protected by the government…may now be in danger of compromise,” the letter continued.

The letter was signed by the local directors of BirdLife International, Conservation International, Fauna and Flora International, Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF and Wild­life Alliance.

The letter was copied to five oth­er ministers including Finance Min­ister Keat Chhon, Industry Minis­ter Suy Sem and Commerce Minis­ter Cham Prasidh. Several of the NGO directors said they had met Tuesday to discuss the Dec 18 meeting with Mok Mareth but declined to comment on their letter.

“Cambodia is developing and we’d like to hear what the minister has to say about that,” said Boyd Simpson, FFI acting program manager.


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