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Group starts ‘one-dollar’ campaign to protect forest

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Monks consecrate trees in the Sorng Rukhavorn Wildlife Sanctuary. SOPHEAP CHIM VIA FACEBOOK

Group starts ‘one-dollar’ campaign to protect forest

A local community in Oddar Meanchey province is doing an online “one-dollar” campaign to raise funds for forest protection after facing personnel shortfalls for their patrolling, leaving much of the Sorng Rukhavorn Wildlife Sanctuary’s more than 30,000ha unprotected.

The Sorng Rukhavorn forest community said forestry crimes there have strongly increased and thousands of thnong trees (Pterocarpus macrocarpus) have been felled. The sanctuary is a dense forest spanning 30,254ha in the northwestern part of Cambodia.

The forest there came under the protection of a former monk, Bun Saluth, in 2001 after he witnessed widespread deforestation taking place in Cambodia due to economic land concessions, illegal logging and land grabbing.

The area was recognised as a community forest by the government, which decided to establish a wildlife sanctuary there on April 5, 2018.

Venerable Tho Thou Ros, the monk that heads the Sorng Rukhavorn community forest, told The Post on January 9 that the fund-raising campaign began in late December and is scheduled to end early next month.

Ros said that at the end of the campaign, the forest community would also hold a two-day tree planting ceremony on February 5-6.

At the same time, Ros said he also expects that the campaign would have the support of many donors who wish to see the patrol work done by the monks and forest community continue.

Ros said that for the daily patrol work – in addition to requiring a lot of physical and mental energy – the community had to spend money on food, equipment and other necessities to maintain these activities, which is why they are requesting donations from the public.

“We need funds to support forest patrols to ensure forest conservation, protect wildlife and maintain biodiversity in the area because the Sorng Rukhavorn community forest is the largest protected forest in Cambodia. We need a lot of resources and a lot of money each day, so we need financial help,” he said.

Regarding criminal activity taking place in the community forest, Ros said that crime was still increasing there and in 2021 more than 1,000 thnong trees were illegally logged.

Due to the increase in forest crimes in the sanctuary and the fact that the anonymous loggers and poachers don’t fear community patrols unless they are backed up by the presence of authorities that arrive quickly when summoned.

“We have seven monks patrolling and living permanently in the forest and in the community we have more than 80 committee members … we’ve also asked the provincial security forces to help with these patrols and we also have to cover their expenses,” he said.

Ly Makara donated money to the campaign and told The Post on January 9 that the donation was made because he wanted to help out as a citizen with protecting the forests.

He added that this community’s work was being undertaken to protect the common interests of all Cambodians and that it required everyone’s participation.

“I understand the feelings of those who take on these challenges – they need cooperation and encouragement – and once they’ve been encouraged they will have the motivation to continue,” he said.

Makara said that as a citizen who cannot participate directly by joining the patrols, he felt he should be involved as much as possible financially or by spreading the word to help the community and the forest defenders who are risking their lives and expending a tremendous physical and mental effort to protect the national interest.

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