The Angkor Botanical Garden was officially opened on May 19 with free entry for both local and international visitors for the first six weeks. The garden was established on a nearly 15ha plot of land in Siem Reap.

“After the first six weeks, Angkor Botanical Garden will begin raising income to support itself and fund the national budget by selling tickets for entry,” said Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona, who presided over the inauguration ceremony on May 19.

According to the Apsara National Authority (ANA) – a body tasked with managing the Angkor Archaeological Park – the garden will become another tourist destination in Siem Reap province. It will be planted with tens of thousands of trees and more than 500 different species of plants, such as flowers, grasses and fruit trees.

“This will be a unique attraction in Cambodia, because the garden is done in the Khmer style with many kinds of vegetables, medicinal plants and palm trees. There will be areas that are landscaped as well as forest areas for wildlife. There will be captive animals such as turtles, peacocks, pigeons and rabbits,” the ANA said on May 19.

The park will have five main zoo exhibits and botanical gardens in the Khmer style that will include a medicinal and spice garden, a flower garden with grass lawns, a palm grove and a forested nature and wildlife area. The gardens will have 500 different species of trees, flowers – including orchids – and other plants.

Sackona said the botanical garden was created to showcase and promote different kinds of plants and to increase the public’s love of nature so they will be inspired to help safeguard the environment.

She said the garden was designed with attractive landscaping that has hills, ponds, canals and waterfalls all connected to an automatic irrigation system linked to the Siem Reap River.

Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara, who also spoke at the ceremonial inauguration, said the garden plays an important role in preserving different kinds of medicinal plants and being a research centre for them.

“This initiative can be regarded as a contribution to maintaining the environment of the Angkor area to ensure that it is an attractive place for tourists to visit from all corners of the map. And all Cambodians must visit Angkor Wat at least once in their lives to see the rich cultural heritage that we should all be proud of,” he said.

He urged members of the public to participate in the upkeep of the environment by planting more trees in the Angkor area as well as at pagodas, which will help society adapt to climate change and protect different species of plants so they are still here for future generations.

“I’m not joking, either. I will personally write a letter – perhaps next week – to the two supreme patriarchs requesting that all pagodas plant trees,” he said.

According to Sackona, the ANA will eventually expand the botanical garden to encompass up to 130ha, covering the southern portion of the Angkor park area in order to help preserve the world heritage site and protect it from more invasive kinds of development such as settlements.