Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Leng pledges to dedicate Goldman prize funds to cause

Leng pledges to dedicate Goldman prize funds to cause

Ouch Leng holds up his trophy after being awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco on Monday. Photo supplied
Ouch Leng holds up his trophy after being awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco on Monday. Photo supplied

Leng pledges to dedicate Goldman prize funds to cause

Goldman Prize-winning activist Ouch Leng has pledged to use the $175,000 in prize money to further the cause of forest protection, setting his sights on nothing short of the eradication of the Kingdom’s lucrative timber trade as a “first step”.

“I will use the cash prize for the protection of remaining forests, including the launching of mechanisms against the timber trade, such as gathering people for government advocacy with the aim to shut down all kinds of sawmill operations and timber-processing factories nationwide. This is what we need to do as a first step,” he said.

In a wide-ranging interview on Wednesday, Leng said that advocacy efforts should also pressure the international community to place restrictions on the purchase of timber from Vietnam and China “because the two countries buy [illegal] timber from Cambodia”, adding that government export licences for timber should be cancelled – “particularly to Vietnam and China, which consider themselves the bosses of Cambodia”.

Leng also touched on the government’s recent logging crackdown and moves to turn Prey Lang and other forests into protected areas, calling them political stunts to “send a message to the international community and people about its effort to take care of the forest in return for getting votes, but nevertheless, the people around [Prime Minister Hun Sen] are still trading timber”.

Leng, who has spent years documenting deforestation and the timber trade in the Kingdom – at times under cover – knows his work is dangerous, but he says he is undeterred, even if the Goldman Prize makes him a more visible target.

“I am afraid of experiencing Chut Wutty’s fate, but if I do not do it, others will not,” he said, referring to his fellow activist, who was shot to death in 2012 and who has become the subject of a documentary film, the recent screening of which the government has banned.

“The government is never happy with forest rangers, patrollers, natural-resource preservers and human rights activists. These people always experience death threats.”

Indeed, last month, a Prey Lang Community Network member was attacked while on patrol, and late last year, two forest rangers were shot and killed in Preah Vihear. Nonetheless, Leng called on “all Cambodian youth and students to cooperate to take care of the forest”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Stop Russia sanctions

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said sanctions against Russia as a result of its military offensive in Ukraine should be stopped as they have produced no tangible results, and predicted that a global food crisis would ensue in 2023 as a consequence. Speaking to an audience at

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen warmly welcomed by president Biden

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, as ASEAN chair, and other ASEAN leaders were warmly welcomed by US president Joe Biden as the ASEAN-US summit May 12-13 kicked off today in Washington. “This evening, I welcomed ASEAN leaders to the White House for the first time in

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen invites US president to attend summit in Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen personally invited US President Joe Biden to attend the ASEAN-US Summit which is set to be held in Cambodia in November, as ASEAN and the US are expected to upgrade their strategic partnership to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’, according to Prime

  • Siem Reap’s Angkor Botanical Garden opens

    The Angkor Botanical Garden was officially opened on May 19 with free entry for both local and international visitors for the first six weeks. The garden was established on a nearly 15ha plot of land in Siem Reap. “After the first six weeks, Angkor Botanical Garden