Friday, May 25, 2012

Cambodian forest campaigners fight rampant logging

Cambodian villagers from other provinces inspect piles of timber in Koh Kong province on May 11. Frustrated by government inaction, Cambodian citizen patrollers are risking their lives to take on the country's illegal loggers in a bid to save their shrinking forests. (AFP Photo/Tang Chhin Sothy)
Cambodian residents march toward the location where Chhut Vuthy -- president of the Natural Resource Conservation Group -- was shot dead in Koh Kong province on April 26. (AFP Photo/Tang Chhin Sothy)
Frustrated by government inaction, Cambodian citizen patrollers are risking their lives to take on the country's illegal loggers in a bid to save their shrinking forests. (AFP Photo/)
Cambodians held a memorial service on May 11 in a remote forest where prominent environmental activist Chhut Vuthy was shot dead two weeks ago, vowing to keep his legacy alive. Frustrated by government inaction, Cambodian citizen patrollers are risking their lives to take on the country's illegal loggers in a bid to save their shrinking forests. (AFP Photo/Tang Chhin Sothy)
A Cambodian Buddhist monk living in the Aoral wildlife sanctuary leads children through the forest in Kampong Speu province. (AFP Photo/Tang Chhin Sothy)
05/25/2012 By Suy Se | AFP
Frustrated by government inaction, Cambodian citizen patrollers are risking their lives to take on the country's illegal loggers in a bid to save their shrinking forests.
The shooting of a prominent environmentalist by a military policeman last month after he refused to hand over logging photos rocked the kingdom and shone an unflattering light on government conservation efforts.
Forest communities who depend on the woodlands for their survival say they plan to keep Chhut Vuthy's brand of grassroots activism alive by stepping up the patrols he introduced last year to monitor forest crimes.
"We are all Chhut Vuthy," supporters said at a recent memorial rally in the remote jungle in southwestern Koh Kong province where the 45-year-old was gunned down.
Rampant illegal logging contributed to a sharp drop in Cambodia's forest cover from 73 percent in 1990 to 57 percent in 2010, according to the United Nations.
"We must protect the forest before it's gone. The forest is our rice bowl," 58-year-old Chan Yeng told AFP at the rally, recalling how she once helped confiscate a chainsaw while on patrol in northeastern Prey Lang forest, where the livelihoods of thousands of indigenous people are at risk.
She said the patrols work: after talking to loggers, documenting their activities or preventing them from benefitting from their illegally harvested timber, her community has seen a drop in forest crimes in recent months.
In the past, when Vuthy was still alive, the patrollers even went so far as to burn hidden caches of luxury timber worth tens of thousands of dollars.
In what will be their largest coordinated action yet, hundreds of villagers plan to patrol forests across 10 provinces in June, according to the Communities Peace Building Network, which coordinates grassroots forest activities.
Campaigners admit it could be risky but they say forest communities are willing to put themselves in harm's way because they cannot rely on the authorities to save the country's natural riches.
"Given the government's inaction or inability to stop illegal logging and to stop deforestation, I think it now falls to the Cambodian public to do something," said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.
Government spokesman Ek Tha said he welcomed civilian efforts to help preserve the country's pristine woodlands but rejected accusations that it was a sign that authorities were failing to tackle the problem.
"You can't control 100 percent of the natural resources across the nation," he told AFP.
In its haste to develop the impoverished nation, the government has been criticised for allowing well-connected firms to clear hundreds of thousands of hectares (acres) of forest land -- including in protected zones -- for everything from rubber and sugar cane plantations to hydropower dams.
Rights groups and environmental watchdogs have linked many of these concessions to rampant illegal logging, and say armed government forces are routinely used to act as security guards for offending companies.
Following the outcry over Vuthy's death, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a freeze on new land grants, a move cautiously welcomed by environmental groups, who nevertheless argue it will not save the forests already under threat.
For that, campaigners say, more people like Vuthy are needed.
One of them is Prum Dharmajat, 41, a Buddhist monk who lives in Aoral wildlife sanctuary in southwestern Kampong Speu province.
He has quietly dedicated the past 10 years of his life to preserving a two-by-three-kilometre (1.2-by-1.8-mile) patch of forest near his hut -- with a few tips from Vuthy along the way.
The area has long been stripped of its valuable trees, but Dharmajat, whose name translates as "Nature", tries to dissuade loggers from felling the remaining ones for firewood or charcoal, with some help from the villagers and children he educates about conservation.
"The destruction of nature is happening too quickly," the orange-clad holy man told AFP, a gaggle of children swarming around his wooden hut.
But even for monks -- highly revered in this staunchly Buddhist nation -- standing between a logger and a lucrative haul can be a dangerous undertaking.
Dharmajat said he has been threatened many times, and after a recent visit to Phnom Penh he returned to find several trees felled and 11 peacocks poisoned close to his home, in what he believes was an act of revenge by frustrated loggers.
Dharmajat is undeterred, however, and said he supported the plans for more community patrols as an effective tool to deter forest crimes.
But he urged patrollers and those accused of harming the forest to peacefully handle their inevitable confrontations.
"We have to resolve it so that no blood is shed," he said.

1 comment:

  1. Buddha didn't teach that he or he is worthy to kill other beings and houses (plants). He taught a way to reduce once own greed to have effects to reduce suffering.

    Now there are monks (not allowed to hurt a plant and also not allowed to order somebody else to hurt plants) who run around with cellphone and laptops.
    Coltan (the stuff of which are LCD products are from) is the cause of deforestation and suffering in many parts of the third world.

    It's not possible to fight greed with greed and hatred with hatred also its not possible to fight greed with hatred and hatred with greed.

    We can fight greed just by non-greed and detachment as well we can fight hatred only with non-hatred. To be efficient we also need to fight the root problem, delusion and delusion we can only fight with discernment. If we take the medicine wrong it will poison us and would not lead to peace.

    If we keep our selves in regard with virtue rather then to our deluded ideas and follow what the doctor said, we are able to find freedom and release. If he are so deluded to think that we are wiser than the Buddha, the snake will bite back terrible.

    Face what you are responsible for:

    Coltan mining in the Congo

    You might think that the same things do not happen in Canada?

    TransCanada Keystone Pipeline

    Where monks use to travel with cars and airoplains...

    We need to face that we our self destroy the world with our stupid attachments and greed.

    How can you teach other virtue, if you are the same like them. You can not teach Dhamma and you are not able to help. There is no "killing in the name of..." taught by the Buddha.

    Start to help people to find a way out of this circle and start to find it out your self first.

    This ways are heavy discriminating and powered by pride. And our forester will not survive such deluded ways, it's just that you kill somewhere far away and they kill some where fare away in return.

    What you face are your own misdeeds. Get the message and turn to virtue for your self.