Five members of the outspoken Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) have left the group and joined the Ministry of Environment’s Preah Vihear branch, citing fears for their life that they hope will be quelled with government jobs.
The five members – Nuon Vannsuy, Tith Pichey, Chey Men, Uch Sann and Yann Phanna – were selected to work at the province’s Department of Environment in June, as the department looks to boost its illegal logging monitoring in the Prey Lang protected forest.
“They have a high willingness to protect natural resources, especially in the Prey Lang area. And right now, they are working with us to patrol in the Prey Lang area to check the illegal logging,” said Ear Sokha, the department’s director.
Sokha added that the five had been selected because the department was running low on rangers and because of their extensive knowledge of the forests in Chey Sen district.
The PLCN has been patrolling the forest since 2001 to document cases of illegal logging and has received funding from the US State Department’s USAID.
Vannsuy said he would help the department strengthen its protection of the area’s natural resources and hoped that they would be shielded as local officials. The PLCN has been attacked in the past by illegal loggers, including an incident last year when a female ranger’s leg was hacked with an axe.
“However, now we are not afraid of these issues and we work harder to protect natural resources, especially in our Prey Lang area, because now we have a [metaphorical] bulletproof vest from the ministry.”