http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/343385

Op-Ed: Cambodia's Prey Lang rainforest urgently needs help

Posted Feb 13, 2013 by Anne Sewell
Prey Lang is the last large primary forest of its kind on the Indochinese peninsula. The rainforest provides food and water for hundreds of thousands of people and endangered species, plus livelihoods for residents, yet it is now in serious danger.
Inhabitants of Prey Lang  demonstrating against the destruction of their forest.
Inhabitants of Prey Lang demonstrating against the destruction of their forest.
Rainforest Rescue
There are as many as 50 endangered species in the rainforest, which is also a powerhouse to fight climate change. But despite this, as in so many countries these days, private companies are being allowed to destroy forests to create, in this case, rubber plantations.
Cambodian human rights organization LICADHO has documented the acquisition of concessions to a total of 3.9 million hectares of land, which is more than 22% of Cambodia’s total area, by private companies.
In the Kuy language, Prey Lang means “our forest.” 200,000 inhabitants, who are mainly members of the indigenous Kuy people, depend on the Prey Lang forest for their livelihood.
Prum Lom of the village of Spong says, “We rely on it for our livelihoods. We survive by using and selling the forest’s products: rattan, tree resin, fruit, game and medicinal plants.”
A resident of the village of Stung Treng, 56-year-old grandmother Vong Phan, says, “Too many forests have already disappeared.”
“We cannot afford to lose another one – especially not one as important as Prey Lang,” she added, expressing the feelings of most residents in the area.
Besides the destruction of the rainforest land, other crimes are being committed. Chut Wutty, who was the founder of the Prey Lang Network, and an activist, worked tirelessly to gather evidence and raise awareness of the crimes. However, he was shot by a military policeman in 2012, after refusing to surrender his pictures of illegal loggers. He was documenting the clearing of forests in the Cardamom Mountains with two journalists.
Illegal logging in the Cardamom Mountain  Koh Kong Province  Cambodia.
Illegal logging in the Cardamom Mountain, Koh Kong Province, Cambodia.
Paul Mason USAID/Cambodia/OGD
The military and other authorities are deeply implicated in the land grabs and plundering of natural resources. Draft legislation to protect Prey Lang has already been drawn up, but it has yet to be ratified by the government.
Prey Lang covers some 360,000 hectares and is the last major lowland rainforest on the Southeast Asian mainland.
The rainforest has diverse ecosystems, which are home to many Red List animal and plant species. These species include elephants, clouded leopards, Siamese crocodiles and pileated gibbons. Also the trees, which consist of rosewood, meranti and balau, are being downed. These woods are in worldwide demand for flooring materials and garden furniture.
The indigenous peoples of Prey Lang are standing their ground and refuse to tolerate the brutal expulsion from their lands, and the destruction of their livelihoods. Along with the Prey Lang network, numerous communities have formed a network under the auspices of the Natural Resource Protection Group (NRPG). Activists in the group are organizing petitions and protests, and sending our patrols to stop illegal lumberjacks.
However, they could use some help. The rape and destruction of rainforests all over Asia must be stopped before thousands of endangered species are lost forever and more people are displaced from their homes and livelihoods.
Rainforest Rescue is asking people to assist by please signing their petition, which will be address to various ministers in the country: Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Cambodia Chan Sarun, Minister, Ministry of Agriculture Forest and Fisheries, Cambodia Suy Sen, Minister, Ministry of Industry, mines and energy, Cambodia Mok Mareth, Minister, Ministry of Environment, Cambodia.