Thanks to the coolness and the lush natural beauty of the thick green canopy – with monkeys swing from branch to branch – many visitors considered the grounds of the French embassy a forest in the centre of Phnom Penh.

The embassy reopened its grounds to visitors on September 17. Many of the visitors expressed a desire to see the capital develop green spaces at the same pace as its high-rise buildings.

Entering the park for the first time, Mer Seklin, a third-year university student, expressed her delight at the large trees and the beautiful natural environment.

“Once I walked in, I didn’t feel like I was in Phnom Penh any more. It’s like being at the foot of a mountain in the provinces or relaxing at a resort,” she said.

After visiting the embassy, she thought Phnom Penh residents could use more opportunities to breathe clean air.

She suggested that the Phnom Penh authorities consider planting more large trees.

“Phnom Penh often experiences traffic jams – and the resulting air pollution. If everyone planted as many trees as possible, I think it would contribute to reducing emissions,” she said.

Looking up at the trees, camera in hand, Chhoeun Samnang told The Post that he had taken a day off from work to enjoy the park.

“The air here is really fresh – it’s like being in a forest. I heard that it would be open to the public thanks to the media, and asked or a day of to visit. People had told me that it was beautiful and had trees as big as those in the forest. Now that I have seen it for myself, I can see that they were right,” he said.

Samnang added that although it was beautiful, it would not be possible to replicate the environment city-wide, as there were too many tall buildings.

Sok Somaly, who was visiting the embassy grounds for the first time, said while she liked the trees, she would rather the Phnom Penh authorities plant Romduol flowers as a first step, because these flowers represent the nation.

“I would like the main streets in the capital to have tall green trees, but Phnom Penh is already developed with high-rise buildings and must keep moving forward. I would like to see flowers planted, especially ones that represent the Kingdom. They have planted them in Siem Reap, and they look beautiful. You can smell them everywhere,” she said.

Covering an area of 4.7ha, and with over 200 trees, the French Embassy Park is one of the largest green spaces in Phnom Penh. Rich in biodiversity with 50 different species of trees, it is also home to several kinds of wildlife.

This was the seventh time that the embassy has reopened its doors to the public on September 17, although last year’s visits were suspended due to Covid-19.

The opening coincided with Heritage Day, part of a European Heritage Day initiated by France. It is currently celebrated in more than 50 countries.

Phnom Penh municipal Hall spokesman Meth Meas Pheakdey could not be reached for comment on September 18 to respond to the wish of youth who want to see green space development in Phnom Penh.