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Better Planning and More Transparency Needed from Government as Development Continues, Expert Says

Well-planned development is positive for Cambodia but the government too often is approving development projects on state-owned land concessions without taking into account how initiatives will impact average citizens, a policy expert told VOA Khmer Thursday.

Var Moeun, president of an environmental awareness NGO, Mlob Bai Tang, said authorities under the direction of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government have a responsibility to keep the public better informed about planned projects and discussions about potential initiatives.

‘’We do not object to development but if a particular project will negatively impact on the lives of regular Cambodians, it should not be permitted,’’ Var Moeun said as a guest on Hello VOA, VOA Khmer’s twice-weekly call-in, talk show.

The Cambodian government has been criticized over the years by international observers for allowing large-scale forest clearing by businesses that do not take into account surrounding communities or the long-term interests of the area.

He said the importance of the forests, fresh water, diverse plant and animal life are not well understood by most Cambodians and that his organization is attempting to inform and educate.

Var Moeun said Cambodia’s lawmakers in the National Assembly are not fulfilling their role to protect the countries natural resources, particularly forests. Lawmakers must assert themselves and help protect the nation if the government is not going to make it a priority, he said.