– Your Venerable Buddhist Monks,
-Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished National and International Guests,
– Beloved Fellow Citizens!
Today it is my great pleasure and honor to join in the opening ceremony of “the Samdech Hun Sen’s Tree Nursery Station at Tamao Mountain”, which represents another new achievement of the cooperation between the Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and the British American Tobacco Cambodia (BAT Cambodia); it is also an auspicious opportunity for me to pay my respect to all your Venerable Buddhist Monks and to meet all fellow citizens who present here today.
On behalf of the Royal Government and myself, I would like to appreciate and profoundly thank the BAT Cambodia for the their active participation in the movement to increase the green forest coverage in Cambodia and to highly value the efforts of the managements, civil servants and all staff of the Forestry Administration of MAFF and local authorities of Takeo province for their cooperation in achieving this important outcome that has a historical meaning for the forestry sector of our nation.
The today’s propitious event is a new proof clearly showing the progress and participation of private sector in the forestry reforms; the sector that is greatly contributing to the socio-economic development and poverty reduction in Cambodia and the important part that leads to successful implementation of “The Rectangular Strategy”, “The National Strategic Development Plan” and “The Cambodia Millennium Development Goals”.
Indeed, this achievement is a government’s pride and prospected benefit for Cambodian people, particularly those who live in Takeo, the province with no forests. Moreover it is becoming more valuable and important for today’s and tomorrow’s world since each and everyday our global natural resources and environment are under constant threat that causes the imbalance in the environment and ecology system, and climate change. These factors have nationally, regionally, and globally affected the socio-economy and wellbeing of human and animal.
According to the report from Mr. Del Mcklein, the executive director of the British-American Tobacco (BAT) for East-Asia,“the New Samdech Hun Sen’s Tree Nursery Station at Tamao Mountain” has the capacity to produce up to 1 millions seedling trees per year for distribution to people in some provinces, particularly to those in Takeo for planting as to provide forest cover, protecting land erosion, for shading, providing fertilizer for farming, firewood, construction materials and fruits for consuming and trading etc. From 1985 to 2007, we have planted trees in form of forest plantation in the area of 34,083 hectares and produced 42.5 millions seedling trees of all types including fruit trees such as longan, coconut, mango, jack fruit, custard apple, tamarind, sdao for public distribution excluding those seedling trees produced by the people themselves. The statistics from the Forestry Administration shows that Cambodia has a total of 190 Tree Nursery stations, gardens and beds of all sizes across the country.
Moreover, it should be noted that our joint efforts in planting these trees has became a good culture of the nation and people. For example, the Royal Government has considered “Environmental Protection is a Prerequisite Condition” for ensuring sustainable socio-economic development by enhancing equity and justice in utilizing national resources and environmental services in a way that benefits all people. In this sense, the Royal Government has introduced a rigorous measure against violators to crack down anarchic activities such as deforestation, banning large-scale forest exploitation, clearing the forest for land, illegal possession of state lands, illegal fishing, illegal mine exploitation, extracting Mreah Prouv Oil etc. These activities appeared from a bunch of opportunists with the collusion from a number of crooked officials who use their responsibilities and power against the laws for personal and their group’s interests.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to appeal to all the people to continue the culture of tree-planting meaning plating trees at every place possible and taking good care of the planted trees for our benefits and to meet our long-term needs. At the same time, I would like to suggest the Forestry Administration to pay attention on technical research studies in tree-planting and select good seedling trees for distribution to our people to receive maximum yields. I would like to suggest the BATCambodia and other companies to continue their efforts in producing and distributing good seedling trees of all types to meet the demand of people all over the country.
Here at Tamao Mountain complex, we have zoos and Tamao Wild Life Saving Center, where not only many endanger wildlife species are saved, it is also a place for forestry and wild life research. Moreover, it has actively and effectively contributed to local poverty reduction through providing tourism services, creating demand for labor and providing forestry resources. For example, vegetables, mushrooms, honey, vines, leaves and tree branches in this area have served the local needs and increase their daily incomes.
At the same time, the improvement of Tamao Zoo, where rocks are being piled up on one another is the area that is covered by beautiful green trees which provides the benefits to human and animal lives as well as a temple for religious worship. The Zoo and Wild Life Saving Center, in particular, has become increasingly attractive to national and international tourists every year. For instance, during the past 10 years, there have been nearly 5 millions national and international tourists visiting the zoo. As the result, the demand for tourism services have increased and turned the area into a market to absorb the agricultural products produced by the local people. Also, according to the preliminary study conducted by the Forestry Administration, people living around Tamoa Mountain can collect nearly 1.5 million dollars of revenue a year from agriculture, trade, tourism services and forestry resources in that area.
At the same time, it should be noted that zoos are not the only place which allow tourists who visit here to understand, to know, to see, to touch and to take photograph with rare or endangered wild animals, which have never been seen before or rarely found in the natural forest, but after witnessing the disability or misery of some wild animals, they will sends a powerful message to people to stop trading and hunting these animals that cause the miseries and separations among them. Moreover, the beauty and cleverness of some wild animals also help to ignite sympathy from people and to make contribution to their protection.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the world forestry resources have been diminishing and facing various threats, especially in poor countries. However, Cambodia enters the 21st century with peace, national unification and integrity countrywide. The RCG’s “win-win” strategy brings total peace, political stability and social security that are the key factors for all sectoral developments. In particular, the RCG has introduced and implemented an insightful forestry reform with high determination and, national and international support, we have successfully strengthened national order and the ability to control, maintain, protect, plant and to proudly develop the national forestry sector. Until now, regarding some works, Cambodia is leading and acting as a role model in the region such as the implementation of international forestry regime, and forestry technical code. In short, despite the decline in the coverage of forest in Cambodia which is parallel to the world trend, forest covers 59% of Cambodia’s total landscape, the highest coverage in the Mekong region, and we hope that Cambodia will be able to ensure 60% forest coverage as targeted in the MDG 2015. We are delighted to achieve this outcome which will be beneficial to our young generations.
Presently, we have successfully eliminate all major violations in forestry trading and confiscate 235,299 hectares of forest land that have been illegally logged, encroached, burnt, cleared and grabbed by some powerful and rich people. However, our most important concern is to use the confiscated land effectively and to serve the poverty reduction target through fair and equitable distribution of land. A portion of land will be provided to real landless people to plant crops and build their houses through the social land concession, and the remaining portion will be used for tree nurseries and replanting, or we can seek investment partners to replant trees without leaving that land unused to prevent soil erosion.
Once again, I would like to appeal to all levels of authority and people in Takeo province to plant as many trees as possible at pagodas, public places, resorts, schools, hospitals, villages and along streets, dikes, canals, and rice field levees because trees provide many benefits to human beings since their birth to their death.
Before closing, on behalf of the RCG and on myself, I would like to show my gratitude to the British-American Tobacco Cambodia (BAT Cambodia) that has established “the Samdech Hun Sen’s Tree Nursery Station at Tamao Mountain”. I hope that the company as well as other donors will continue the tradition of providing support to establish tree nurseries in other provinces. I would also like to show my appreciation to the management and officials of the Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery who have made contribution and responsibly perform their duties to ensure the effectiveness and success of the nation.
Finally, I would like to wish Your Venerable Buddhist Monks, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished national and international guests, and all Cambodian nationals who are present here in this ceremony with Five Gems of Buddha Blessings. May I now declare the official inauguration of “the Samdech Hun Sen’s Tree Nursery Station at Tamao Mountain”from now on.