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Scholar Highlights National Environmental Risks 

Chak Sopheap, who was awarded a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in International Peace Studies in Japan, told “Hello VOA” Thursday she was concerned about two things: the environment and the health of Cambodians.

“The current practice of the Cambodian government, which neglects or bypasses regulations in approving forest concessions or filling in lakes, is not only harmful in natural resource depletion, but also to the environment, to human life, and to the survival of the whole community,” said Chak Sopheap, who studied at the International University of Japan.

She cited Japan’s outbreak of “minamita” disease, a form of methyl-mercury poisoning that affects the central nervous system, as a warning against polluting developments at Bokor mountain in Kampot province and Boeung Kak lake in Phnom Penh.

Bokor mountain has been authorized by the government for private development of palm oil and cassava plantations and livestock farms, and Boeung Kak lake was filled in before an environmental impact assessment had been approved, she said.

Chak Sopheap said she wasn’t against development projects, but she encouraged the government to provide means for interested parties to take on duties for the public interest and to avoid future risks.

Japan’s failure at risk management led to damaging side-effects in an anti-diarrhea drug containing Clioquinol in the late 20th Century, she said. The drug has since been banned in some countries.

“This [illness] should be an influential case to relevant stakeholders, including the government, policymakers, doctors, as well civil society, to be cautious about the safety and effectiveness of medical usage and other supplies which may result in harm,” Chak Sopheap said.