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Here you will find no sewage, no garbage, no hotels or cainos illegally built right on the beach, and no noisy bars with rowdy tourists. Instead, you will find deserted beaches with crystal-clear waters, and small rolling hills covered with misty jungles.       

Relentless repression against independet media in Cambodia since late 2017 means that our activists have once more had to resort to one of our hallmarks since our inception as a group in 2013: creating short and high impact videos orientated towards Cambodian social-media users. In this video, one of our activists presents to his fellow citizens the unparalleled beauty of the island, and asks people to join us in our campaign to demand that it is left untouched. So far, the video has reached over 1.2 million views on our FB page since it was released in July of 2019.  

​​Koh Kong Island, also known as Koh Kong Krau - literally 'outer Koh Kong - is found in Chruy Pros Commune of Koh Kong Province. Still unknown by most Cambodians, it is the country's largest island, with an area of 103 km2, or slightly bigger than the far more well-known Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem islands combined.

The island, which can only be accessed by boat, is a pristine environment, mainly comprised of dense tropical evergreen forest. There are many waterfalls, rocky creek beds and freshwater lagoons that meet the ocean at beautiful beaches through small tidal mangrove-flanked estuaries.  With over 50 km of coastline, six long coconut-tree-lined beaches with pure-white sand meet the crystal clear waters of the surrounding ocean. Reefs and intermittent seagrass beds border the island and teem with countless tropical fish and corals. The dense jungle interior is occasionally criss-crossed with animal tracks and narrow paths linking some of the beaches.


Empty Island

Koh Kong Island is almost empty of people, even though the north-eastern edge of the island sits less than 500 meters off the mainland village of Lam Dam in Koh Kapik Commune. There is an army base at the north tip, small military outposts of one to two households at some of the beaches, and Alatang village in the southeast. Alatang is a fishing village home to about 80 families living in floating houses nestled just off the coast of a small bay. On land, Alatang Village has a pagoda and waterfall-fed pond which is used by the villagers as a water source. Alatang is mostly self-sufficient, with villagers occasionally travelling the 2.5 hour journey by longtail boat to Koh Kong town to fetch supplies.

Importance

Cambodia has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation and remaining forests are vulnerable to exploitation
{1}. Lowland evergreen forest, which predominately makes up Koh Kong Island, are critical ecosystems in Cambodia and are now highly threatened. This forest type has a history of being granted for logging concessions because of their accessibility and abundance of high value timber. Consequently, lowland forests in Cambodia are constantly being reduced in size and quality due to (most often illegal) logging.

However, because Koh Kong Island is hardly inhabited and is only accessible by boat, it has so far escaped this fate and remains serene and well preserved. A quick look at deforestation rates in the country clearly shows how the island maintains an incredibly healthy amount of forest cover, all the more surprising given that the neighbouring Botum Sakor National Park has seen over the last 15 years or so some shockingly high levels of deforestation under the pretext of several so-called 'Economic Land Concessions' and 'Special Economic Zones'. This makes this island particularly important as it is one of Cambodia’s last relatively untouched evergreen forests. Due to its largely unexploited history and stunning scenery, Koh Kong Island shows great potential as an ecotourism area to be enjoyed by all, without any development that will be harmful to the environment























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Threats

Although selective logging has happened in the past and small-scale poaching is occurring, Koh Kong Island still retains its natural beauty and wildlife is thriving in relative peace. However, existential threats loom on the horizon.

A wide road has recently been constructed with the use of heavy machinery. The road, already about 6,300 meters in length, originates at the army base at the northern end of the island and heads south. There are rumours circulating that the road may be extended the entire 20 km length of the island. It seems likely that the road will continue to snake its way through the difficult to traverse terrain, which will make the interior much more accessible to loggers and poachers, or to well-connected land speculators, the ever-prevailing threat to so many other forested parts of Cambodia's . It would also allow for the potential of industrial scale logging of the forest to occur rapidly.

If this island is not destroyed from the inside out via the new road, it may be irreparably damaged during so-called development, or have access restricted by privatisation - both of which are happening in the islands off the coast of Sihanoukville.  Just last year, the director of Koh Kong provincial Department of Environment, Morm Phalla, said that the Ministry of Environment was looking to protect the island. He stated that some parts of the island could serve to protect its natural resources, while others could serve the economic sector
{2}. The unfortunate reality is that the trade-off between development and conservation in Cambodia is almost always (criminally) mismanaged. Private and government development projects across the entire country are regularly linked to forest destruction, often with the complicity of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, who currently happen to control Koh Kong Island via the presence of two small navy bases.  

If the Government were to lease the island to a private company, under any of the many current guises we are seeing across the nation (i.e., a 99-year lease as an Economic Land Concession to an obscure company) Cambodian citizens and tourists could be excluded from enjoying the beaches, just like what has happened in other beautiful coastal areas, where only the super-rich can relax for $1000+ per night. This is not at all far-fetched; documents obtained by Mother Nature Cambodia investigators in late 2015 show that a group of companies - including the powerful and thuggish LYP Group - had applied for a concession in the island, allegedly to build high end hotels and other venues of entertainment. Though the government declined to approve the concession, the threat definitely remains.


An even bigger threat to this stunning terrain is that it meets the fate of the nearby coastal line of Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts, which started being privatized with a complete lack of transparency around 2008, with utter disregard to the rights of the local communities, or to the once-abundant natural resources of the Botum Sakor National Park. The once-pristine coastline is now home to not just the highly controversial Union Development Group, but also a couple of large concessions to the LYP Group.            

Should development have to happen, sustainable and ecologically friendly options, such as protecting the island and promoting it as an ecotourism area, must be the only approaches considered.  














Visiting the stunning Koh Kong Island is a bit like traveling in time, back to when Cambodia's islands and beaches were as close to paradise as anywhere else in Southeast Asia. 'Development' - a word that has come to signify so much pain and destruction in Hun Sen's Cambodia, has so far managed to escape the country's largest and by far most beautiful island.   

SAVE KOH KONG ISLAND

​Campaign aims

The Save Koh Kong Island campaign aims to introduce people to the beauty and importance of this special island, and to elevate its status, especially in the hearts and minds of Cambodians, so it can be preserved in its natural state for future generations to enjoy.

By raising the profile of Koh Kong Island, more people will know about it, which will help highlight its value and ensure that it remains beautiful because it will be harder for private interests to quietly exploit.  

This campaign aims to encourage the Ministry of Environment to declare Koh Kong Island as a national park or protected area so it can be protected under Cambodian law and fully preserved. Mother Nature Cambodia is firmly against any development that can cause any negative impacts on the island.

Placing Koh Kong Island under the management of the Ministry of Environment can help ensure what little forest Cambodia has left is protected and the island is preserved as it currently is. This island is a piece of paradise that should be left as it is so all Cambodians can visit and enjoy it together.


Join us in saving our nation's heritage and help people across the world become aware of Koh Kong Island's rare, unparalleled beauty.


Mother Nature Cambodia Inc.

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