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Villagers Burn Illegal Logs as They Patrol Forest for Themselves

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, August 18, 2011. Later, most were briefly detained after they distributed leaflets in the capital, but they w

Villagers from the Prey Lang forest have completed a five-day sweep for illegal logging in the area, setting fire to some 300 cubic meters of illegal logs as they patrolled the forests by motorbike.

Villagers say that land concessions granted to companies by the government have resulted in further degradation of the forest to illegal logging, and they have vowed to stop the illegal practice on their own.

At least 200 people took part in the five-day campaign, which ended Wednesday and covered the provinces of Kampong Thom, Kratie, Preah Vihear and Stung Treng.

Chan Saveth, chief monitor for the rights group Adhoc, took part in the campaign. He said villagers met several goals, including reaching the timber operations of a high-ranking Interior Ministry official named Seng Sarawuth.

Seng Sarawuth could not be reached for comment.

His concession is supposed to make furniture like tables, chairs and beds, Chan Saveth said, but instead villagers found large piles of timber.