Interior Minister Sar Kheng informed European Ambassador George Edgar on Tuesday that plans to construct a controversial road and border checkpoint that would have cut straight through the Mondolkiri Protected Forest had been suspended.
During a meeting with the minister, Mr. Edgar requested that the Kbal Damrei road and border crossing, which would run through Mondolkiri province and cross into Vietnam’s Dalat province, be halted due to environmental concerns, said Por Phak, director of the Interior Ministry’s secretariat general.
During the meeting, Mr. Kheng informed the ambassador that plans had already been suspended while a working group of Interior Ministry and provincial officials assess the project’s potential environmental effects, Lieutenant General Phak said.
Mr. Kheng told Mr. Edgar “that the construction of the road was already suspended, and the joint national committee is working to study the impact,” he said.
“The construction could depend on the result of the study,” he said, adding that a new route could be planned to avoid a negative impact on the protected forest.
The environmental group WWF has raised concerns about the road and border crossing, claiming it could cause irreversible damage to the Mondolkiri Protected Forest and could end hopes of re-establishing Cambodia’s tiger population in the area.
Mr. Edgar confirmed on Wednesday that he was pushing the government to completely scrap plans for the road to cut through the protected area.
“The recommendation from the EU was to cancel plans—which we understand are currently suspended—for a road that would go through the core zone of the Mondolkiri Protected Forest,” Mr. Edgar said in an email.
“The issue is not over the principle of a border crossing between Mondolkiri province and Vietnam, but over the specific siting of the border post and the related road project, which would have a significant negative impact on a key protected area,” he said.
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