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Prey Lang Activists Petition Internationals for Help

A Cambodian Buddhist monk sprinkles holly water to villagers who set a prayer rally to save rain forests in front of Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011. Hundreds of villagers prayed at the spirit's shrine, demanding the governme

Activists working to protect the massive Prey Lang forest in northeastern Cambodia have delivered a petition to embassies, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank on Friday, urging the international community to help them.

Villagers living near the forest say their livelihoods there are being threatened by continuous government concessions to private rubber and other companies.

The petition follows a demonstration in Phnom Penh on Thursday, in which 100 villager were swept up by police for handing out fliers in public, in what authorities said was a threat to public security.

“I want the donors to help intervene,” Phok Hong, a representative from Preah Vihear province said Friday. “Prey Lang is lost a little bit every day….We all depend on Prey Lang. If we have no Prey Lang, we would rather die than live.”

Svay Phoeun, another petitioner, said major development loans from foreign aid and international banks were potentially driving some of the destruction of the forest.

Villagers delivered their petition, with around 300 signatures, to the embassies of Australia, China, Germany, the US, and the UK, as well as offices of the UN, the World Bank and the ADB.

Representatives for the US and ADB both confirmed receipt of the petition and said officials are now reviewing them.