Press release: European Ambassadors Visit Prey Lang
January 22, 2016 | Posted in: News
PRESS RELEASE ¦ PREY LANG COMMUNITY NETWORK
Last week, from 12 – 15 January, the Prey Lang-area and the Prey Lang Community Network was visited by a delegation consisting of the ambassador of the EU to Cambodia, H.E. George Edgar and the ambassador from Denmark to Cambodia and Thailand, H.E. Henrik H. Winther as distinguished participants. The other members of the delegation were leading members of the PLCN, members of Peace Bridges Organization (PBO) and from Community Development for Peace and Sustainability (CDPS).
The purpose of the visit was to give the ambassadors a first-hand impression of the area and the problems concerning illegal logging and to exchange views with local authorities and key-members of the PLCN, an organization working arduously to prevent and stop the illegal logging. The fact is that there obviously still are big problems in the Prey Lang area with illegal logging and land-concession for rubber companies occupying ever larger areas in the huge forest-area. The Prey Lang forest is among the largest – if not the largest – remaining pristine forests of Southeast Asia, and this distinguished forest is the home an extraordinary rich biodiversity of plants and animals. The forest has great significance far beyond the borders of Cambodia, and this is an important reason that also the two ambassadors are vividly interested in the condition of the forest.
On the road to the core area of the forest, which measures app. 1000 km2, the delegation stopped in Sandan, a district capital of the Kampong Thom province, to have a meeting with The Chief of the Sandan District Councilors, Mr. Pen Nin. He was asked about the efforts of the local authorities to curb illegal logging and his assessment of the magnitude of the problems, which according to him are decreasing. But the growth of population means that still more people want to clear forest to grow crops.
Next day the delegation went further into the huge forest-area into the core-area, which is still relatively pristine. But underway the delegation had a vivid illustration that the problems about illegal logging are still very present:
Around 2 hours’ drive from Sandan we encountered of transport of luxury timber, which could have been rosewood or resin tree. Tractor and load was confiscated temporarily and brought to the camp of the activists with the allowance of the police – the two policemen and a soldier were accompanying the delegation from the beginning to the end for security reasons. The forest pirates had the tractor back later in the evening after having promised and signed that they would end the illegal activity for good.
Late in the afternoon there was a grand meeting in the camp, where representatives of all four local committees from the four provinces of the Prey Lang forest had come – partly travelling a long way. It turned into a long meeting, starting with the four leaders of the local committees telling about their work and activities and the support among the local population, which seems to be high. Conflicts with the loggers can easily rise, and many of the participants expressed great satisfaction about the courses in conflict handling and non-violence, which have been organized by the PBO (Peace Bridges Organization). A good deal of the active members of PLCN has participated in these courses. The two ambassadors and the rest of the delegation were listening intensely and were asking clarifying questions, but as the meeting progressed it became more and more clear that the PLCN cannot solve the problems concerning illegal logging and dubious land-concessions alone. As long as a demand in the market for luxury timber persists, it will be attractive to cut down the valuable trees. Consequently the ambassadors promised to raise the problems of Prey Lang with the Cambodian government and other relevant authorities. If Prey Lang is to survive as an intact and biologically diverse area of extraordinary value and a living place for the local population it is highly necessary to unfold an intensive campaign of information and assert political influence on all political levels! The active members of the PLCN ended up expressing their great gratitude that the two ambassadors would take their time to participate in this 4-day journey in support of the conservation of Prey Lang.