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Ouch Leng, recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Goldman Environmental Prize
Ouch Leng, recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Goldman Environmental Prize

Prestigious prize awarded to local forest activist

Cambodian environmentalist Ouch Leng was named as one of six recipients of the world-renowned Goldman Environmental Prize yesterday for his efforts to expose illegal logging and the corruption associated with it.

Established in 1990, the prize is awarded to individuals who undertake “great personal risk to safeguard the environment”, with a winner from each inhabited continent being chosen each year by a seven-member jury.

In addition to international recognition and a 10-day tour of San Francisco and Washington, DC, recipients are awarded a $175,000 cash prize.

Leng, the founder and chairman of Cambodia Human Rights Task Force (CHRTF), an organisation dedicated to fighting illegal logging and the timber trade, was awarded the prize for exposing the corruption behind economic land concessions (ELCs), which have since been subject to government review.

“Ouch went undercover to gather evidence of illegal logging activities, posing as a laborer, timber dealer, driver, tourist, and even as a cook. He documented the illegal operations of Cambodia’s biggest timber magnate [Try Pheap] . . . revealing how ELCs were used as a cover for illegal logging and exposing criminal collusion between timber companies and government officials at all levels of power,” the prize’s website reads.

Just a day ahead of the prize’s announcement, the CHRTF started a change.org petition calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen and Environment Minister Say Sam Al to take meaningful action to protect Cambodia’s remaining forests.

“To secure Cambodia’s natural heritage for future generations – stop the sawmills and save Cambodia’s forests,” it reads.

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