Forest defenders under fire in Cambodia

Authorities in charge of protecting the massive Prey Lang forest in Northern Cambodia are intent on harassing environmental activists rather than nabbing illegal loggers.

On Friday 5 February, Cambodian forest activist Ouch Leng, a Goldman Environmental Prize recipient, was arrested along with four others. They had been putting up ‘No Chainsaw’ signs and wrapping trees with blessed saffron robes in a section of the vast Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary to campaign against illegal logging, an activity that has spiked in Cambodia throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last week, on 8 February, all five were released without charge and ordered not to return to the Sanctuary without permission. 

Ouch Leng and Heng Sros, along with members of the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) – Man Mat, Heng Run and Porng Cheang – had been peacefully putting up signs to deter loggers when they were detained by Ministry of Environment rangers around noon last Friday, near Achan village, Kratie province.  Officials from the Department of Environment transferred them to Kratie police station where they were held and interrogated.

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