A new kind of battle is taking place in Cambodia, this one between conservationists and international paper companies. Cambodia’s central Cardamom Mountains were a stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, and as such were avoided by timber companies and others who feared being kidnapped or killed. With the Khmer Rouge largely subdued, however, timber companies have started to make good on current logging concessions and pressure the government for new ones. Meanwhile, international aid agencies and development banks, which together provide Cambodia with about $500 million in assistance every year, are urging strict conservation measures. To date, protected areas exist only on paper, and the impoverished country is rife with illegal logging of valuable hardwoods and poaching of wildlife. The Cardamom Mountains are home to dozens of threatened plant and animal species and a water system that supplies as much as half the country’s annual fish catch.
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