Forestry Official Says Phnom Tamao ‘Out of His Hands’: Conservationist

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A deer captured on a camera trap in Phnom Tamao’s forested area. (Nick Marx Wildlife Alliance)
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A senior Forestry Administration official told a wildlife NGO there was not much he could do about the future development and privatization of the Phnom Tamao protected forest, according to an account of the meeting provided by an NGO participant.

VOD has seen documents that show large swaths of the Phnom Tamao forest, which includes a pagoda and wildlife rescue center, will be privatized. A Council of Ministers document listed two parcels of land, around 300 and 500 hectares, for privatization, and another map distributed at a stakeholder meeting says the TP Moral Group, linked to notorious tycoon Khun Sea, requested two plots in the forested area — around 520 and 160 hectares each.

Government officials met with representatives from conservation group Wildlife Alliance to discuss the potential privatization of land in the area, according to NGO director Nick Marx. At the meeting, a Forestry Administration official thanked the NGO for help[ing preserve flora and fauna in the forest but said there was little they could do about development of the forestland. 

“The [director general] told us that decisions of whether or how this development takes place is out of his hands,” read an account of the meeting provided by Marx. 

According to Marx, Wildlife Alliance said camera traps setup in the area had photographed diverse wildlife, which should be protected. 

“Wildlife Alliance’s stance remains the same, that the forest, which is home to many rare animals and is full of birds, should not be developed by building more high rise buildings and condominiums or in a manner that would destroy natural habitat,” Marx said.  

Takeo provincial administration director Meas Uy said he did not know much about the development plan around Phnom Tamao mountain, only that the area had been controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture but was sliced up for private business.

“I don’t know much about this. But I only know that there’s a letter from the Council of Ministers transferring this land to private business,” Uy said.

Minister of Agriculture Veng Sakhon, Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Srey Vuthy, Takeo governor Ouch Phea, provincial deputy governor Ly Saveth and Minister for the Council of Ministers Bin Chhin did not answer their phones when contacted on Thursday.

Marx had previously said that the government and Hun Sen would be better served conserving the area, or even turning it into an ecotourism area or safari park. 

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