Forestry advocates see more youth engaging in environmental protection, especially in forest communities where illegal logging is rampant.
“Previously, only elder people from the ages of 30, 40 or 50 up stood up to protect their forests, but recently more younger people have been participating in the anti-illegal logging movement,” Chhim Savuth, a community empowerment officer of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told “Hello VOA” on Monday.
For example, campaigns against illegal logging in the Prey Lang forest in the northeast of the country have encouraged hundreds of villagers to patrol in four provinces, he said. About 40 percent of them were youth, he said.
“After they saw their parents taking up the fight against illegal logging to protect their forests and livelihoods, they took them as role models and joined the movement,” Chhim Savuth said. “They believe no one but themselves can protect their community forests.”
Illegal logging in the country has been well documented and has reached an alarming level, he said.
The international watchdog Global Witness has said “dubious plantation developments” are often covers for illegal logging operations. “Many of these plantations and permits are being allocated to a small group of individuals who have close relations with senior politicians,” the group reported after an in-depth investigation in 2007.
Tim Malay, head of the Cambodia Youth Network, based in Phnom Penh, told “Hello VOA” on Monday that individual communities must now take part in the protection of their own forests.
Malay recently led a group of young volunteers to patrol in Prey Lang with Chut Wutty, the environmental activist who was shot to death in Koh Kong province last month.
“The state institutions do not implement the laws,” Malay said. “If we continue to ignore the ongoing logging, the remaining 30 percent of Cambodia’s forests will disappear.”