More than 100 monks and young activists marched to the Forestry Administration’s headquarters in Phnom Penh on Monday to submit a petition demanding that authorities step up efforts to protect the vast Prey Lang forest from illegal loggers.
The march, which began at the Council for the Development of Cambodia, followed a four-day patrol of the 650,000-hectare forest earlier this month, during which the participants found evidence of illegal logging on a large scale.
“These were not instances of villagers cutting trees for their families…. They were cutting trees to feed companies,” said But Buntenh, president of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, who led the march, urging the government to designate the forest a protected area.
At the Forestry Administration’s headquarters on Norodom Boulevard, two officials came outside to take the petition. They refused to identify themselves, but promised to pass it along to their superiors.
The monks and activists also showed the officials five chainsaws they said they confiscated from illegal loggers during their patrol of Prey Lang, which spans parts of Kompong Thom, Kratie, Preah Vihear and Stung Treng provinces.
“If we had not confiscated the chainsaws from them, they would still be cutting down the trees,” But Buntenh said.
The marchers also attempted to submit a copy of the petition at the National Assembly, but nobody came out to accept it. Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun could not be reached for comment.
Doeun Duy, a monk who joined Monday’s march and the Prey Lang patrol, said that many loggers fled when the activists approached them in the forest.
“The people cutting the trees ran away when they saw us,” he said. “Some did not run away, and then we seized their chainsaws.”