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How Buddhist monks are battling deforestation in Cambodia

Posted: Tue Jul 19, 2016 11:37 am
by Ben
Cambodia has one of the world's highest deforestation rates. But a group of Buddhist monks are stepping up efforts to save forests by publicly revealing wrongdoings and mobilizing local villagers. Ate Hoekstra reports.

Buntenh is on his way to a workshop, in which he and other monks teach the local people how to use social media to protect themselves and the forest. It is badly needed, he says, as the survival of Prey Lang - meaning "Great Forest" in Kuy, the local minority language - is under threat. Large parts of the forest have already disappeared to make space for plantations. In areas that are protected from such land concessions, illegal loggers cut down tree after tree.

"The people who cut down the forest think they are superior, but in reality they are stupid. Only the forest is superior," Buntenh said. Sixteen years ago, he decided to join the monkhood. Now he is trying to convince the people that the world cannot exist without trees. "No one has told me that I should go out there to protect the forest, but for me it was a logical thing to do. I am doing all I can to save it. I plant new trees, I help the people who live from the forest, I am reminding the government of the promises they've made."

..."I had already known Buntenh from Facebook. But when he started his activist movement after the elections, I realized I could do something as a monk," Sophanny said. He joined Buntenh's activist network, which consists of some 5,000 monks. Since then, Sophanny has been at the forefront during protests and has shared all kinds of wrongdoings via Facebook.
Leaning against the pillar of a wooden house on the edge of Prey Lang, Sophanny says that it's the task of the monks to protect the country and its people.

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