Monks Community Forest is part of important new wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia
April 11, 2018:
The Cambodian government last week created a new wildlife sanctuary covering more than 30,000 hectares in Oddar Meanchey province. It includes the Sang Rukhavoan community forest, led by Venerable Bun Saluth along with other forest communities, and partly supported by ARC.
The April 4 sub-decree by the Ministry of the Environment in Phnomh Penh mapped the 30,254 hectare Sang Rukhavoan Wildlife Sanctuary, encompassing the Sang Rukhavorn and Rattanak Rokha community forests, as well as area flooded by the Stung Treng II hydroelectric dam in Anlong Veng.
The intention is that it will contribute to the reduction of climate change and natural disasters, will be a place of sanctuary for animals, will preserve natural resources and biodiversity and will also be a place for Cambodian people to learn about, experience, and actively protect the environment..
Ministry spokesperson Sao Sopheap said the government was closely cooperating with Ven Saluth and local authorities, adding it has also assigned rangers to patrol the sanctuary, the Khmer Times reported.
Both the community forests are considered hot spots for forestry and wildlife crimes, the Phnom Penh Post reported.
“We have patrolled and strengthened law enforcement related to protection and conservation in that area,” Mr Sopheap said.
||Ven Bun Saluth, who had a vision of a forest that was protected by monks and by prayer
Phuong Lina, director of the provincial Environment Department, said his department and other provincial authorities had made the request to change the area to a protected wildlife sanctuary as the area is home to “rare and luxurious wood and endangered animals”.
He claimed villagers from Cha Thmey village in Anlong Veng district committed the majority of the crimes, especially at night. Last year he said there were 10 cases involving forestry crimes in the area forwarded to court, all of which are still pending.
Ven Saluth has been head of the Sang Rukhavoan community forest since 2002, leading monks and local people to fight and resist illegal logging and poaching. He said he was happy about the new situation.
“I am happy and thank the head of the royal government for creating this wildlife sanctuary, and thank the provincial authorities for participating in protecting the forest for the next generation and letting the forests in the area grow thicker and more dense,” he said.
||Guns confiscated from poachers in 2015
The monks are happyVen Saluth said Sang Rukhavoan was first known as a “Forest Protection and Wildlife Conservation Area” and in 2008 it was renamed the “community forest”.
The total amount of Cambodian forest under protection has however decreased this year. In February, at the request of the Cambodian government, King Norodom Sihamoni issued a royal decree to dissolve two wildlife sanctuaries of more than 110,000 hectares in Battambang and Kratie provinces.
It was said this was because they had lost their potential as wildlife sanctuaries, with some areas having been provided to people as social land concessions, the Khmer Times reported.
Death threats by illegal loggers to a monk in ThailandThe story about the Cambodian forest was published just a few days after news that a 76-year-old Buddhist monk living on his own in his forest monastery in north-eastern Thailand, had received death threats by illegal loggers, and was asking for international assistance.
The monk, Luang Pu Kittiphong Kittisophon, abbot of Wat Pa Kham Sawang temple in Tambon Nakham has formally petitioned the local authorities asking them to help save the 120-rai (nearly 20 hectare) forest surrounding his temple.
It contains over a thousand Siamese Rosewood trees believed to be more than 200 years old, some much older than that.. The monk wants the provincial governor to step in to protect the trees, and has also called upon the local media to help him fight the logging gangs after shots were fire at night into a hut near to his own. He believes this is a warning for him to leave the forest temple so that the loggers can have their way.
In 2017, the forest became part of a forest protection project implemented by the Royal Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, but the monk told The Bangkok Post that although he has complained to the local police about logging activities there, no serious attempt has been made by the police to deal with the issue. Read more here.
How do monks protect forests?Both in Thailand and Cambodia rural monks often “ordain” trees, chanting and wrapping them with monastic robes so that devout Buddhist villagers will want to cut them down.
The ceremonies are well publicized in a hope to discourage loggers who might not want to make the bad karma of cutting down the forest around an ordained tree. Although some loggers and corrupt government officials have little respect for such religious traditions, they would be aware that the villagers and monks will be on patrol around the ordained trees.
Around 90% of people in Cambodia consider themselves Buddhist.
LINKS and VIDEOSKhmer Times story about the wildlife sanctuary
Phnom Penh Post story
SE Asia’s ‘Environmental’ Monks Need International Support
Monks in Cambodian Community Forest take action against soldiers for alleged logging and threats: March 2018
Cambodian Monks Community Forest wins the Equator prize.
Cambodia's pagodas become eco-centres.
More on monks and environment programmes in Cambodia.
Cambodian monks join together to protect the Cardamom mountains.
Youtube interview in Khmer on the Monks Community Forest
Youtube interview in Cambodian on understanding REDD+ and how to protect the forest in Cambodia
And from elsewhere...
A June 2016 animation by Chinese Buddhists about vegetarianism as mercy release.