SIEM REAP (Mar 5) – Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen said ASEAN nations have to establish a more comprehensive framework and mechanism for constructive cooperation in environmental conservation.

“We need to work more closely to ensure synergies, better resource mobilization, improved coordination and cooperation in order to protect our environment and at the same time enhance economic and social development for our people,” said Mr. Hun Sen, who was speaking at the launch of the ASEAN Environment Year 2003 in Siem Reap.

He urged member countries to ensure sustainable development and poverty alleviation, which include the implementation and expansion of afforestation and reforestation programmes, the careful management of natural resources and the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

In line with the ASEAN Environment Year 2003 theme, “Together Towards Sustainable Development”, Mr. Hun Sen said it is vital for member countries to preserve the environment for the future.

“Environmental sustainability is a challenge intimately linked with globalization and a responsible multilateral trading system,” he said. “An enabling environment with opportunities for fairer trade, equitable partnership and good governance are key factors toward ownership, self-sustainability and long-term development for our countries.”

The Cambodian premier said the transnational nature of environmental issues requires the concerted efforts by ASEAN nations to boost its natural resources management sectors such as forestry, fisheries and land.

“Environmental interests span borders as well as generations. As such, environmental security is as important as economic and political security,” said Mr. Hun Sen.

Cambodia’s Environment Minister Dr Mok Mareth said it is important to live in harmony with the environment and cautioned that harming nature will have an adverse impact on the community.

“We also need to focus on the most vulnerable stakeholders – the marginal farmers, fishermen and youths who have contributed the least to the problem, but are the most vulnerable,” said Dr. Mok Mareth.

In a message from the ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong, he called for all sectors of society to work together to protect the environment.

“It is important that the pursuit of economic growth, social development and environmental protection is carried out in an integrated manner in the context of sustainable development,” said Mr. Ong.

“However, achieving meaningful sustainable development is a difficult task considering the competing demands on meagre resources especially in the developing countries,” he added.

Mr. Ong expressed confidence that the national and regional activities this year will increase the commitment of ASEAN countries to achieve a clean and green Southeast Asia.

To commemorate the ASEAN Environment Year, activities like youth camps, tree-planting exercises, debates, conferences and exhibitions will be held in each member country. 

As part of the activities to promote environmental consciousness, a logo design competition was held recently, which attracted some 80 entries from the region.

The top prize went to Mr. Sophal Laska, a forestry graduate from the Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh. The second prize was awarded to Mr. Ceppy Budiman of Indonesia and the third prize to Mr. Le Quang Hoa of Vietnam. 

A painting competition saw some 30 entries from ASEAN with the grand prize awarded to Mr. Chet Pisoth of Cambodia. In second place was Mr. Hla Htut Oo Myanmar and third prize winner, Mr. Lee Yi Zheng of Brunei Darussalam. 

A publication entitled “ASEAN Marine Protected Areas” and an illustrated Map of the Protected Areas of ASEAN, published by the ASEAN Regional Center on Biodiversity Conservation (ARCBC) was also launched this year.