CAMBODIA: Prime Minister urges forest protection

Prime Minister Hun Sen said that economic land concessions for rubber plantations in Cambodia should not exceed a total of 300,000 hectares, in order to preserve forests and prevent climate change.

His comments came during a speech to recent graduates at the Chamkar Doung Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh, where he urged a group of approximately 100 young people and relevant government officials to do their part to protect the environment.

"Rubber is at a good price, but it is impossible for us to cut down the high trees to plant rubber,” Hun Sen said.

"We can protect the forest to help reduce climate change,” he said.

Ly Phalla, head of the General Directorate of Rubber, said that Cambodia's combined 181,500 hectares of rubber plantations have not yet impacted the Kingdom's forest land, in part due to long-standing economic land concessions granted to private companies for the growing of non-commercial timber.

"There is no problem from rubber plantations because the government has banned the cutting of economic timbers,” he said.

Mak Kim Hong, managing director of the Chub rubber plantation in Kampong Cham province - now the Kingdom's largest rubber producer - said that land devoted to the country's rubber plantations could reach 250,000 hectares by 2015.

Late last year, Hun Sen approved an additional 14,564 hectares of state land in Kratie province's Snuol district to be privatised for rubber plantations.(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)