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Tribes Hold Ceremony To Protect Trees in Remote Northern Province

Cambodian villagers affected by the loss of land in Prey Lang forest in the north of the country pray at a Buddhist shrine in central Phnom Penh, file photo.
Minority groups in remote Preah Vihear province on Friday gathered in a ceremony to combat illegal deforestation in the province.

The forest of Preah Rorka sits at the confluence of three districts, covering 90,000 hectares, and tribes in the area rely on the forest for their livelihoods.

People there say development companies have devastated an increasing portion of the forest.

“We want this event known by the government, and we want the government to stop the companies,” Noun Mong, 63, from the Kuoy minority group, told VOA Khmer. Damaged forest not only take away livelihoods, but important cultural land, she said.

Sin Sang, a 57-year-old Kouy, said she and 50 other people from her village entered the forest Friday to join in the ceremony. The forest has been harmed by companies protected by Cambodian armed forces, she said.

Last week, two ancient temples were also destroyed by a company in Tbeng Meanchey district, where she is from, she said.

Lor Chann, a Preah Vihear coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said two Chinese companies, Rui Feng and and Lan Feng, have been granted concessions of 18,000 hectares to plant sugar cane and rose wood.

“The companies are continuing their plans, clearing land and cutting down trees,” he said. “The way they cut down the trees is just disastrous.”

Company officials and provincial officials could not immediately be reached for comment.