Rampant illegal logging a threat to country’s Indigenous community
Cambodia – Global rights body Amnesty International has said that widespread illegal logging in Cambodia’s protected forests is endangering and threatening livelihoods and cultural survival of country’s indigenous people. According to the Amnesty’s report published on Friday, more than 15,300 acres or 6,200 hectares have “deforested across Prey Lang and Prey Preah Roka protected forests in 2021”.
According to the report, Cambodia has witnessed one of the highest rates of deforestation globally, losing around 64 per cent of its tree cover since 2011.
Amnesty International was told by Kuy community members, which is one of the largest indigenous groups out of Cambodia’s 24 indigenous communities, that how the deforestation in the two Cambodian protected forests and government restrictions on their access have negatively impacted their livelihoods and violated their human rights.
Richard Pearshouse, Amnesty International’s head of crisis and environment, said, “Rampant illegal logging in Cambodia is posing an existential threat to the country’s remaining primary forests, and the indigenous peoples who depend on them for their livelihoods, their culture and their spiritual practices.”
He added, “Cambodia’s approach to conservation is characterised by official corruption and a complete disregard for indigenous people’s rights. If the Cambodian authorities don’t change course soon, the country’s protected forests will be illegally logged into oblivion.”
The report by Amnesty is based on interviews taken of 20 community activists engaged in protecting the two forests, that are home to significant number of Kuy populations and contain protected wildlife sanctuaries. The interviewed people said that Cambodian authorities were failing in their duty of protecting indigenous people’s rights by not policing the areas adequately. They shared that widespread corruption withing police and government is bolstering illegal logging trade. “Community members described government officers receiving bribes from timber traders and loggers in return for ignoring illegal activities,” said Amnesty.
One local activist told the organization, “The big problem is that the authorities… are only interested in collecting money.” The activist added, “They go to investigate it – but they only investigate it to collect money from the loggers.”
Neth Pheaktra, secretary of state and spokesperson of Cambodia’s ministry of environment, has rejected claims by Amnesty as “baseless”. He said Kuy people “have full rights to patrols allowed by law and get full cooperation from Ministry of Environment’s forest rangers and authorities”.