Mon, May 28, 2012 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: Cambodians start fight to save their land from loggers

AFP, KOH KONG, CAMBODIA

One of them is Prum Dharmajat, 41, a Buddhist monk who lives in Aoral Wildlife Sanctuary in southwestern Kampong Speu Province.

He has quietly dedicated the past 10 years of his life to preserving a 2km by 3km patch of forest near his hut — with a few tips from Vuthy along the way.

The area has long been stripped of its valuable trees, but Dharmajat, whose name translates as “Nature,” tries to dissuade loggers from felling the remaining ones for firewood or charcoal, with some help from the villagers and children he educates about conservation.

“The destruction of nature is happening too quickly,” the orange-clad holy man said, a gaggle of children swarming around his wooden hut.

However, even for monks — highly revered in the staunchly Buddhist nation — standing between a logger and a lucrative haul can be a dangerous undertaking.

Dharmajat said he has been threatened many times and after a recent visit to Phnom Penh, he returned to find several trees felled and 11 peacocks poisoned close to his home, in what he believes was an act of revenge by frustrated loggers.

However, Dharmajat is undeterred and said he supported the plans for more community patrols as an effective tool to deter forest crimes.

However, he urged patrolers and those accused of harming the forest to peacefully handle their inevitable confrontations.

“We have to resolve it so that no blood is shed,” he said.

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