A documentary film titled Cambodia Burning produced by the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) won two awards – “Earth Photo 2020” and “Drone Photo 2020” – from the US-based Pulitzer Centre.
The film, which has drawn criticism from a senior Ministry of Environment official, was photographed and produced by Sean Gallagher of Britain early this year as he researched and recorded “climate crisis” and environmental issues in Cambodia, including deforestation and forest fires in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary.
The awards were announced by the Pulitzer jury in August in the US state of Massachusetts.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Gallagher said local PLCN members – mainly farmers and local residents who travel by motorbike patrolling the forest to check for illegal logging and poaching – stopped trucks full of freshly logged trees in Prey Lang.
“Totalling over 3,500sq km, Prey Lang is one of Asia’s most threatened evergreen woodlands,” Gallagher wrote.
PLCN was also awarded EU Green 2020 recognition in October from EU Green Week of Denmark.
Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra disapproved of the awards. He said that by photographing the forest and acting as a natural resource protector, the group took advantage of sacrifices made by the true natural resource protectors and conservationists.
“Natural resources protection and conservation in Cambodia is not exclusive to any individual. What they have done is just for the benefits of their own group. They should not have been praised because they just prepared plans to get financial support and give in to demands of certain donors,” he said.
Pheaktra said a genuine effort is made by officials from the environment ministry, including forest rangers and communities in protected areas, not activists.