Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ethnic villagers concerned over Areng Valley roadway

Ethnic villagers concerned over Areng Valley roadway

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A villager walks on a path in the Areng Valley where the planned construction of a new road has caused concern among community members. Photo supplied

Ethnic villagers concerned over Areng Valley roadway

Ethnic Chorng villagers in Koh Kong province have raised concerns that a controversial 20-kilometre road under construction in the Areng Valley will threaten their traditional way of life.

Prime Minister Hun Sen pledged to build the road last August in response to a request at a public forum by social media celebrity Thy Sovantha, who claimed a new road would boost the local economy by bringing tourists.

Environmentalists and locals, however, were quick to point out that the road was just as likely to bring environmental degradation and illegal logging, while providing dubious benefits to residents.

On Monday, representatives of the local Chorng community met with a local activist to air their fears that the road will make the region more accessible to outsiders, who will disturb the Chorng way of life.

“We are not against the government over road construction, we just appeal to them to focus on [making it] effective for the villagers and natural resources,” Hing Pov, one of the villagers, said by phone yesterday.

“When they develop the area, more people will come to live and develop things; our way of life will be lost, and the next generation may not know our Chorng traditions.”

According to indigenous rights activist Ngach Samin, the forests of the Areng Valley are essential to Chorng livelihoods and culture. “In the forest they can collect traditional medicines,” he explained. “They can collect honey and they can hunt wild pig.”

Ministry of Environment spokesman Sao Sopheap, however, dismissed villagers’ concerns yesterday. “[Local people] need the road to improve their livelihoods by having access to places where they can sell agricultural produce and open eco-tourism activities.”

But the villagers’ belief that the road will bring outsiders who will pillage the environment and upend local traditions was supported by the assessment of long-time conservationist Markus Hardtke.

“[The Cardamom forest] is one of the last relatively untouched areas in Cambodia,” he said. “If you have a road, it is easy access to poachers and loggers,” he said. Roads, he added, lead to “land-grabbing along the roads, which means deforestation in the hinterlands”.

If a road is built, he concluded, “you will have business, gas stations; it will be the end for the forest, most likely”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10