Last week, hundreds of Cambodians donned costumes and make-up inspired by the James Cameron film, Avatar, to protest the widespread destruction of Prey Lang, one of Southeast Asia’s last intact lowland rainforests.
A brilliant ploy to attract media attention, the face paint and funny hats got the protesters noticed by Reuters, CNN (i-report), MSNBC, NPR and other international media outlets.
Prey Lang’s most significant threat comes from rubber companies, which have been granted permission to harvest thousands of hectares of rainforest by the Cambodian government.
According to Mongabay, Cambodian villagers were rebuked by the local government for trying to organize a protest against the rubber companies in March.
Two days in a row local authorities prevented some 400 Cambodian villagers from protesting at the offices of the Vietnam-based CRCK Company, which the villagers contend are destroying their livelihoods by bulldozing large swaths of primary forests. Authorities said they feared the villagers would have grown violent while protesting.
But, according to village representative, Chheang Vuthy, speaking to the Cambodia Daily: “The villagers would not have acted violently. The companies should not be clearing forest even though they have licenses from the government because it affects people’s livelihoods.”
Local protesters say they are shocked at the way the forest is bulldozed without any thought for the impact on wildlife or the environment.
The villagers also delivered a petition opposing land concessions in Prey Lang signed by 30,000 people to Cambodia’s National Assembly. The petition calls on the Cambodian government to rescind any current permits and establish Prey Lang as a protected area.
“Nature cannot speak out, and we are dependent on natural resources, so we have to speak out on its behalf,” Som Lach, a protestor, told the Phnom Peng Post.
Image Credit: Prey Lang Network