For Cambodia’s largest swath of intact rainforest, the most important line of defense against the logging companies and vested political interests that are seeing it deforested is the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN), a local activist group of volunteer forest rangers that has been risking their lives to peaceably protect the area from illegal logging and large-scale land-grabbing since 2007.
Death threats from loggers and punishment from local authorities are however now leading the group and its partners to make changes in their efforts, after the country’s Ministry of Environment began outlawing their work earlier this year. The continued level of dedication to conservation recently earned the volunteer organization recognition as the Global Landscapes Forum’s 2020 Landscape Hero.
“The Ministry of Environment has banned [independent forest patrol] in the Prey Lang protected area and tried to [undermine our work] by saying we had a political agenda,” says a PLCN representative who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisal. “Some of our members are facing arrest and have [had to flee] their villages because they tried to shoot pictures of illegal timber transportation. Local authorities are monitoring and following up on all our activities.”