Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday appealed to Cambodians to promote conservation at what he promised would be the first of many annual public forums to discuss the state of the country’s natural resources.
He also called on officials not to stand in the way of environmental campaigns at the event, which provided a rare opportunity for hundreds of activists to put their concerns to the premier.
During the forum Hun Sen acknowledged the lack of action on the part of government to protect Cambodia’s forests, rivers and other ecosystems.
“I need the people to participate and I need to hear the true words and I need to know what the needed protections are,” he said.
Venerable Buth Buntenh, a monk who has long campaigned on environmental issues, asked Hun Sen to urge the authorities to co-operate with conservation campaigns.
“But what's necessary is good cooperation. As long as the cooperation is still restricted like nowadays, our mission to protect our forest will still fail. It's time to act now.”
Hun Sen said he agreed with many of the points raised by environmentalists at the forum and called for local government reforms
“According to the statement raised by [Buntenh], not only did the authorities not cooperate but also they blocked [activists]. So I want all the authorities concerned in different provinces and localities to cooperate in terms of actions that do not hamper national security. This change will contribute to the development of the nation which should be encouraged,” he said.
Buntenh told VOA Khmer that conservationists would need to wait to see whether the prime minister’s promises would bear fruit.
“It's not matter of belief but it's matter of time. If the opportunity is lost, it is lost... if it's just talking and nothing is carried through, it is useless. So I believe that it's the proper time and it can be accomplished.”