Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the annulment of all recent land swap deals with private firms that intended to develop the Tamao mountain area in Takeo province's Bati district, where the Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Centre (PTWRC) and an adjacent 400ha wildlife sanctuary are located.

In his August 7 order, the premier said the deals had drawn the ire among the public and conservationists alike, although the relevant authorities had clarified that the firms' development projects would not affect the park or the sanctuary.

Hun Sen ordered the firms to stop their activities to replenish the areas that had already recently been bulldozed for development.

In a May 17 letter, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon stressed that the land swap would not affect the conservation area or the assistance provided by Wildlife Alliance Cambodia or the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Wildlife Alliance and the ministry.

The land swap also raised suspicions of irregularities surrounding the deals, prompting a June 17 investigation by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU).

The ACU has said it found no evidence of corruption.