Saturday, December 17, 2011

Prey Lang prayer ban defied

  By Phnom Penh Post

Photo Supplied
Members of the Prey Lang network participate in a prayer ceremony yesterday at the Bayon Temple in Siem Reap in order to raise awarness of deforestation in the Kingdom. More than 100 villagers defied police attempts yesterday to break up a praying ceremony they held at Angkor Wat to seek divine help in their battle to stop the government from allowing private companies to destroy the protected Prey Lang forest.

Svay Phoeun, a member of the Prey Lang network, which advocates for the protection of the forest, said officers from the Apsara Authority and police tried but failed to stop them from holding their ceremony at Bayon temple in the Angkor Wat complex.

“We still continued even though the police tried to block us, because what we did was not wrong,” he said.

The 360,000 hectare forest – Cambodia’s largest, spanning six districts in the provinces of Preah Vihear, Kratie, Stung Treng and Kampong Thom – is under threat from 33 separate economic land concessions that have been granted to private companies.

Duong Sovanara, a member of the Prey Lang network, said the group had chosen the Bayon Temple for their ceremony for two reasons – because it was a magic site and because it was  somewhere they could draw the attention of passing tourists to the destruction of the forest.

“We would like to ask the government to find a quick resolution to prevent [the destruction of] Prey Lang, otherwise it will be destroyed quickly by private companies,” he said.

Chea Sophat, cultural heritage police chief in Siem Reap province, said he had refused to allow the villagers to celebrate their praying ceremony because they had not received official permission.

“We will allow them to do their praying party after we get permission from the director general of Apsara Authority,” he said.

Seng Sokheng, a representative of the Community Peace Building Network, said villagers had secured such permission before about 30 police officers occupied their ceremony.

“What the authority did is illegal in Cambodian law, because they did not allow villagers to celebrate the Buddha ceremony,” he said.

“It also a violation of human rights.”

Bun Narith, director general of Apsara, could not be reached for comment.


  1. Dear friends,

    make no enemies, make no quarrel, seek for teaching peoples, seeks for showing others the right way with your own virtue.
    Abstain from taking what is not given, don't take part on "modern" ways, walk and abstain from driving, don't grasp for beautiful and luxury furniture, live like Cambodians and in that way protect our heritage of peace and living with nature.

    Ones lose is another gain and later another gain is ones lose. The middle path does not seek for any extrema.

    O bhikkhus, cut down the forest of craving, not the real tree; the forest of craving breeds danger (of rebirth). Cut down the forest of craving as well as its undergrowth and be free from craving.

    from the Dhammapada

    Killing trees, destroying the home of many living beings will cause destruction in return. Its never a mystical or somethings supernatural but the law of cause and effect.
    People wonder why they lose their land, get robbed, and punished buy flood, fire and storm. One who conquers, seals and kill's will never be safe, not the biggest army nor the safest castle will protect him form is deeds.

    May the Devas have compassion as this one, a long time ago:

    "A certain Āḷavī bhikkhu was chopping down a tree. The devatā living in the tree said to the bhikkhu, 'Venerable sir, do not chop down my home to build a home for yourself.' The bhikkhu, disregarding her, kept right on chopping and injured the arm of the devatā's child. The devatā thought: 'What if I were to kill this bhikkhu right here?' Then another thought occurred to her: 'But no, that wouldn't be proper... What if I were to tell the Blessed One of what has happened?' So she went to the Blessed One and... told him of what had happened.

    "'Very good, devatā, very good. It's very good that you didn't kill the bhikkhu. If you had killed him today, you would have produced much demerit for yourself. Now go, devatā. Over there is a vacant tree. Go into it.' (The Commentary adds here that the tree, being in Jeta's Grove, was a definite move up for the devatā. She had a front-row seat for overhearing the Buddha's teachings well into the night; unlike other lesser devas she wasn't pushed out to the far reaches of the galaxy when large groups of major devas met with the Buddha; and when the Four Great Kings came to attend to the Buddha, they always made a point of visiting her before leaving. However:)

    "People criticized and complained and spread it about, 'How can these Sakyan-son monks cut down trees and have them cut down? They are mistreating one-facultied life.'"

    with metta

  2. Maybe an useful article:


    Monks are not supposed to be concerned with worldly issues such as politics. At the same time, however, the ecology monks see environmental destruction as a crucial factor in their main concern-human suffering. They cannot avoid a certain degree of involvement in the former if they are to deal with the latter. They feel a responsibility as monks to teach people environmental awareness and show them the path to relieving their suffering. The root causes of suffering are, in Buddhist philosophy, greed, ignorance, and hatred. As the destruction of the forest is caused by these
    evils (through people's selfish aims at economic gain or unconsidered use of natural resources to meet needs arising from poverty and overly rapid development), the monks see it as their duty to adapt traditional religious concepts and rituals to gain the villagers' acceptance and commitment to their ecological aims.

    The destruction of the environment was not a significant issue in Thailand until the rapid industrialization of the country became a national priority after World War II (Sponsel and Natadecha 1988:305). Even then, it was not
    until the 1980s that nature conservation became a widespread concern, despite the earlier efforts of such environmental NGOs as Wildlife Fund Thailand and the Project for Ecological Recovery. The adoption of the issue by the ecology monks beginning in the late 1980s has raised the movement to a new level. It can no longer be seen simply as an economic or political debate between environmentalists and developers, but has now been placed on a moral plane. The monks are concerned with the suffering of both humans and wildlife which results from the destruction of the forests and
    watersheds. As it is a moral issue, the monks are interpreting the scriptures to support their actions and are adapting traditional rituals and symbols to involve lay villagers in the movement.

    The ecology monks are walking a fine line between their traditional responsibilities as spiritual leaders and their new practice as social activists. They are con-sciously using the former to support and even justify the latter, to counter the criticisms that their environmental efforts are inappropriate for monks. The result is a complex interplay between traditional religious concepts, symbols, and rituals, and moral debates of political and economic issues. While the focus of specific activities such as tree ordinations is predominantly on local areas, the innovative use of traditional rituals, such as the parade and skits accompanying the phaa paa ton mai ceremony, and the implication of signs like the one nailed to the tree in Nan, place the issue on a national political level as well. Through the use of words like chaat, the monks raise issues that question the role and responsibility of the local and national governments in deforestation and conservation.

    Similarly, the practice of religion itself is being changed, even challenged, in the process. Buddhism in Thailand has become less relevant
    to daily life over the past century because of increasing government involvement in lay life through schools, improved health care, development projects, and other areas. The Buddhist ecology movement, following the model of the work of development monks, is not allowing the religion to become relegated to a secondary place in Thai society. It challenges the Sangha, as well as the Thai people, to reconsider its role and not to accept complacency or merely perform rituals that have no direct relevance for relieving suffering in daily life. It forces Buddhists to question and
    think about the causes of people's suffering, even when these causes are controversial or political. While the activist monks' aim is to relieve suffering and maintain the relevance of the religion in a changing society, this has also resulted in questioning and rethinking the function of the religion itself.

    to be continue...

  3. ...continue:

    The use of traditional Buddhist rituals (such as ordinations and the phaa paa ceremony) and the invocation of powerful religious symbols (such as holy water and monks' robes, and the implication of words like chaat in the plaque on the ordained tree in Nan Province) serve as vehicles which simultaneously preserve religious concepts and sentiments and challenge
    their traditional use and interpretations in Thailand. The ecology monks are responding to what they perceive as threats to or, to put it more mildly, inevitable changes in their social position. They are making conscious choices and actions, guided by long-standing religious concepts such as merit-making and karmic action, and social relations between the Sangha and the lay villagers. As a consequence, their role, the concepts and practice of the religion, and the relation between the religion (and its practitioners) and the state are all changing. While the scriptural justifications behind the ecology movement are important to understand, the practice which accompanies or motivates the re-examination of the canon
    demonstrates that the process cannot be examined solely on an abstract theological level. The case of the tree ordination in Nan illustrates the social, political, and economic issues involved, and reveals the levels at
    which the major changes are taking place.

    This dynamic process of change is far from complete. The Buddhist ecology movement is still growing and becoming more vocal and controversial, challenging specific cases of environmental destruction caused by policies
    of the government or economic development plans. The responses of the government, industrialists, and general members of the Sangha, as well as the Sangha hierarchy, all need to be considered to judge the full effect of this movement on the concepts of Buddhism and ecology as they are interpreted and practiced in Thai society. It is apparent that Thai Buddhism is changing dramatically and, despite some efforts to use it as a conservative force to support the status quo and government policies, it has tremendous potential to effect social and environmental change in Thailand. The extent and success of these efforts, and the true direction of the changes involved, remain to be seen.

    more The ordination of a tree

    with metta

  4. another useful article:

    Fighting climate change with Buddhism, not science

    A group of monks from remote Cambodia are protecting their local forests and fighting climate change with Buddhism, not science, as the inspiration.

    By Brendan Brady

    Tha Soun and his fellow monks from nearby Samraong pagoda have presided over a 44-thousand acre forest known as Sorng Rukavorn, or simply Monk Forest, for a decade. These days it seems a serene garden, but it wasn't always so.

    Tha says that not long ago, police and soldiers would come here to poach timber.

    "I would advise them to stop if I thought they might listen," Tha says. "But if they wouldn't listen, I would just take away their chainsaws and weapons."

    Tha says he and the other members of his Buddhist community have succeeded in protecting the forest because they are respected spiritual figures. But his experience before he became a monk certainly helps as well.

    "The soldiers don't scare me, because I used to be a soldier, too," Tha says.

    This determination helps preserve the forest for use by both the monks and the local community. Now, the effort could also provide lucrative for Cambodia.

    Monk Forest is one of 13 community forests totaling more than 250 square miles in Odder Meanchey province whose value in fighting climate change is being marketed in an international exchange of what are called avoided deforestation carbon credits. That's a mouthful that basically means Cambodia hopes to get paid by outsiders not to cut down their trees.

    The credit market is based on the fact that forests absorb huge amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide. The effort is meant to help curb rising CO2 levels by preserving as much forest land as possible.

    Tha acknowledges that climate science is new to the monks here, but he does understand that with climate change a lot is at stake for his country, because most people here survive off the land.

    And Tha says preserving forests has always been important in Buddhist tradition.

    "It was under a tree that Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and passed away," Tha says.

    So like Buddha, Tha spends much of his time in ritualized performances under the forest canopy.

    But such natural temples have become harder to find in Cambodia. More than a fifth of the country's forests have been cut down over the past twenty years.

    Today, large-scale logging has been reduced but big timber sales continue, even in protected areas. Tha says when that happens, local people can no longer get any benefits from the forest,

    Here in Monk Forest, on the other hand, local residents can still share its abundance. And they also help monitor and protect the forest.

    Thirty-four-year-old volunteer Choun Chun says the monks have taught him about the value of conservation.

    "When I was young, I was tempted to cut the trees for profit," Choun says. "But, slowly, I realized the forest was important for our society. If we cut the trees, we destroy ourselves."

    Destruction has been widespread in the area in recent decades. Oddar Meanchey province was the hideout of remnants of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime for almost 20 years after they were overthrown in the mid 1970s. In those years they funded their insurgency by selling timber in nearby Thailand.

    to be continue...

  5. ...continue:

    Today, the area remains poor and isolated, which makes illegal logging tempting. The carbon credit deal is meant to address this by essentially offering a reward for protecting the forest. By one estimate, the credits for all 13 forests could be worth as much as 50 million dollars over 30 years.

    But the carbon credit process is largely untested, and critics worry it could be vulnerable to corruption. Kuy Thourn, who's a local leader in a village near Monk Forest, says he's not sure his community will ever see any benefit.

    Thourn says the money might go to the people, or it might go to corrupt officials.

    "We will have to find out."

    A government representative recently visited the area to assure villagers that they will benefit from the deal. But skepticism is rampant, and monk Tha Soun worries that it will be difficult to convince some Cambodians of the importance of protecting their forests. But he says he remains committed, no matter what.

    "I decided to become a monk because we Cambodians believe it is the duty of some boys to keep the religion alive and clean the sins of our parents," Tha says.

    For Tha, those sins include the past generation's mistreatment of the forest. He says he's determined to help save Song Rukavorn, and as much forest land here in northern Cambodia, as he can, for sustainable use, and spiritual contemplation.

    read more or listen to the story

    with metta