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Pursat villagers seize illegally logged trees

Pursat villagers seize illegally logged trees

pusat.jpg
pusat.jpg

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

preserve.

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

said.

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,"

said Huot.

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.

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