07/08/2015, 00.00
CAMBODIA
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Phnom Penh, activists and Buddhist monks protest against illegal logging

A hundred people protested outside Parliament denouncing the indifference of the ruling majority and the opposition. The message concerns a forest in the north, which is likely to disappear. For environmentalists time "is running out." And traffickers are free to act undisturbed, offloading their goods in China and Vietnam.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – At least one hundred activists, supported by a group of Buddhist monks, are protesting in front of Parliament in Phnom Penh, demanding action against illegal logging of Prey Lang forest.

Members of parliament and Senators on both sides, the majority and the opposition, have refused the requests logged long ago to consider a matter which,  according to environmentalists, threatens to destroy some of the most beautiful natural areas of Cambodia. Neither has the Forestry Department taken any decisive action to combat the trafficking of precious woods.

During the protest - guarded by the security forces - the activists held a petition demanding action against the destruction of the forest, a territory that covers at least five provinces in the north of the country.

However, neither the members of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), nor the parliamentary opposition movement Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have responded to the call, in spite of reassurance and promises given earlier.

Speaking to Radio Free Asia (RFA) But Buntenh, leader of the Independent Network of monks for social justice, does not hide the frustration in seeing the inertia in the whole of Parliament. Meanwhile the movement activists are launching a new alarm, saying that time is running out and possibilities to save the forest from destruction are increasingly meager.

"If we look at today's phenomenon of illegal logging – he adds - the entire forest of Prey Lang will not survive 2015. Today, our last hope is that we are going through the rainy season and it is difficult for traffickers to transport timber from the forest" .

Another monk called for an “all-out battle" to protect the environment, even if "no parliamentarian seems willing to support" the cause. Only the poor, who rely on the goods and the nature of these forests, seem to understand the severity of the problem and show "respect" for the planet's natural resources.

A monk from Sre Veal village, in the province of Preah Vihear, denounces the massive deforestation taking place every day in his community, with traffickers free to act undisturbed.

Prey Lang is one of Southeast Asia’s last remaining lowland evergreen woodlands and covers an estimated 3,600 kilometers of land within northern Cambodia. Thousands of hectares  of the forest—which is home to an estimated 200,000 members of ethnic minorities—have been granted as concessions to private companies, many of which have been accused of illegal logging. Most of the wood from Prey Lang is smuggled into China and Vietnam, where it is made into furniture and exported worldwide.

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