Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Government Plants 3,000 Luxury Trees on Arbor Day As Deforestation Persists

More than 3,000 trees planted to mark Arbor Day in Takeo province. (Hun Manet’s Facebook)
More than 3,000 trees planted to mark Arbor Day in Takeo province. (Hun Manet’s Facebook)

The government planted 3,000 luxury trees in conjunction with Arbor Day, also known as National Planting Day, even as civil society groups and community forestry raise concerns that deforestation continued in Cambodia.

This year, Arbor Day was celebrated in Tram Kak district in Takeo province, which was presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni on Tuesday. 

Luxury trees, such as thnong and rose wood, were planted on a three-hectare land, said Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Dith Tina.

In his speech, King Sihamoni said Arbor Day was a great culture which brought together national authorities and compatriots from all over the country to plant trees.

He said there was a common vision to plant trees, keep oneself safe from natural disasters, and protect the forest for future generations.

“Planting trees is of great benefit to our country, as it gives a natural cover and [protects] human beings and animals on our planet,” the King continued.

Minister Tina said the Forestry Administration has planted 16,500 seedlings on 10 hectares of land at the Sokrom Forest Extension and Rehabilitation Station, which is located in Phnom Kravanh district in Pursat province this year.

To date, the Arbor Day event has seen the establishment of 475 hectares of parks in 14 capitals and provinces and creation of a “forest-loving and tree-planting” movement across the country. 

There are more than 80,000 hectares of plantations and scores of public or private parks in schools, pagodas and resorts.

In addition, the Forestry Administration is expected to plant more than 20.5 million seedlings using the state budget by this year. It has the capacity to plant and distribute 500,000 seedlings per year. Millions of saplings are planted by people privately, excluding fruit trees or other industrial crops.

Meanwhile, Kratie province Phnom Ses Community Forestry president Hea Samoeun shared concerns about forest cutting in his community where protected areas were almost void of trees.

In April, Mongabay reported new data by the University of Maryland – made available via Global Forest Watch, a satellite monitoring platform – showing forest cover loss of up to 121,000 hectares in Cambodia in 2023.

“They won’t stop cutting,” Samoeun said. “If we [every community] can protect the trees in the forest, we won’t need to plant trees.”

“If they [authorities] plant trees now, it is good for decoration [but] these trees cannot replace those that have been cut down in the forest,” Samoeun said.

While there are forest patrollers in his community, they only patrol once a week or once every two weeks because they do not get much pay. As a result, people cut trees “as they wish” when the forest patrollers are not there.

“I don’t want to go to the forest now, it used to be cold there, but it is almost empty now,” Samouen said, urging the relevant authorities to prevent loggers from cutting down the forest.

NGO Partnership for Environment and Development head of network and advocacy San Mala supported Arbor Day, calling it a “remarkable” national event for the public, as well as for the government “to be reminded to change its attitude”.

“Arbor Day is a sign, urging us all to think about and pay attention to conservation and protection of the forest,” he said. The forest plays an important role in the production of oxygen, and in particular, contributes to the absorption of carbon dioxide, which is an important component in mitigating global warming.

He said forest cover is deteriorating and declining due to economic land concessions, deforestation to meet the demand of luxury goods by “rich and powerful people”, and to develop agricultural land.

“This problem has had a serious impact on the livelihoods of indigenous people who depend on the forest. Their tradition, culture and customs are attached to the forest,” Mala said.

He called on the government, civil society organizations and the public to work together to protect the remaining forests and restore destroyed forests, and make sure there is no “conspiracy to cut luxury wood” for the benefit of rich people, which has caused suffering to local people.