The Cambodian Youth Network (CYN) – in collaboration with a group of forest activists – has launch a three-month advocacy campaign on Facebook starting this March to celebrate World Forest Day and spur the Ministry of Environment to stop restricting their forest patrols.

CYN’s programme manager Heng Kimhong said the campaign is aimed at mobilising public support for the cause.

“With this campaign … we hope to convince the environment ministry to allow for public participation in protecting our natural resources,” he said.

According to Kimhong, this campaign will engage in online advertising and advocacy and will culminate in the submission of a petition to the ministries of environment and interior along with a request for a discussion with relevant institutions on forest issues.

Kimhong said that in the past the environment ministry has responded to the demands of the organisation and forest activists for their participation in natural resource protection.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra responded some civil society organisations are just using human rights and natural resources as a pretext to garner attention and solicit funding.

He said the law must be enforced without exception and that these organisations should support law enforcement rather than engaging in purported advocacy to please donors.

“They are trying to defend anarchic freedom . . . The environment ministry will continue to strengthen law enforcement without exception for all crimes occurring in areas under its jurisdiction,” he said.

He said perpetrators must face the full force of the law whether they are a logger, land grabber, hunter or a political activist group trying to take refuge under the label of forest protectors.

Pheaktra pointed out Cambodia respects human rights and citizens have full freedom under the rule of law. But freedom, he said, shall not be tantamount to anarchy.

“The environment ministry doesn’t benefit by opposing those who love nature and want to participate in natural resource protection, but we require that everyone acts in accordance with the law. They must build a good faith partnership [with the environment ministry] and work together to preserve Cambodia’s natural resources for future generations,” he said.