Around 100 villagers from Ansa Chumbok commune in Pursat province seized 444 young
trees on September 22 and 23 that were illegally logged from a forest they want to
Villagers get their message across as they seize logs they say were illegally felled.
Ansa Chumbok commune representative Oum Huot, told the Post that the villagers decided
to seize the illegally logged trees to send a message that the forest should be protected.
The villagers have been looking for the trees, which are 0.1 to 0.4 meters in diameter.
The trees were found in flood water far from the village.
"Myself, as well as the other villagers, want to ensure that this forest remains
as it has been for the last 40 years. We want to bring the wildlife back," he
Huot said they want to set a good example for the other villages that face the similar
situation of illegal logging of forests.
Forestry Department Official Kim Nara is head of a unit focused on cracking down
on illegal logging along National Route 5. He said he is grateful to the villagers
who are helping to protect the forest.
"A villager, like a forestry official, wants to protect the forests. What they
have done is not wrong; they should be admired," said Nara. "What I see
is that they love the forest and are concerned the forest will be destroyed if they
don't protect it. Since we have the help of the community, I am confident that we
can preserve this forest."
Although the villagers are going to great lengths to preserve the forest, the land
they are protecting does not belong to their community. The land in question is on
a Pheapimex-Funchan Ltd. eucalyptus plantation.
Early this year, 700 villagers protested the government's decision to allow Pheapimex-Funchan
Ltd to convert 6,800 hectares of forest into a eucalyptus plantation. The company
has a 70-year right to develop 300,000 hectares of "spare forest" between
Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces to grow eucalyptus.
In addition to protesting, the villagers had submitted a form to the government requesting
that the land be designated a community forest. While they are still waiting for
their request approval, the villagers want to show the government as well as the
provincial authorities that taking care of the forest is a top priority.
"Right now, we have no right to this forest. But, we strongly hope that the
government will give this forest to our community to manage in the near future,"
Nara said that the villagers have been instrumental in protecting the forest and
he will send a report to the Department of Forestry to urge them to consider leaving
the land in the com-munity's hands.
He added that if the forest is protected for the next couple of years, there will
be more trees.
Currently, Huot said that the forest yields at least 6 million riel in profits for
the villagers, who sell wild fruit, mushrooms, and other non-timber products.
"We get a lot of benefits from this forest that supports our life. So we must
protect it," said Huot.