April 18th, 2016 by Glenn Meyers
In Cambodia, murder is a fitting description for the illegal logging and deforestation which has taken place in the Prey Lang forest, one of this country’s most significant unprotected landscapes. Not just murder of a forest and it remarkably rich biodiversity it provides, but murder of those trying to protect it.
As reported by the Prey Lang Network, On April 26th, 2012, Chut Vuthy [Wutty], a partner in the fight to stop illegal logging throughout Cambodia, was shot to death by Military Police. Vuthy [Wutty] refused to hand over his memory cards containing photos of a company incursion into publicly held land. He is the most prominent activist to die in Cambodia since 2004.
Sadly, illegal logging is a huge industry, not just in Cambodia. In 2012, Scientific American reported international illegal logging activity was worth an estimated $30 to $100 billion annually. With population growth, the number has surely gained by then.
“Since that time, however, the size of the timber industry has grown significantly, both in quantity and in value,” said Davyth Stewart, team leader for Interpol’s Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests (LEAF) project. “The growth in the amount of legal logging has also been matched by a growth in illegal logging.”
Producer and director Fran Lambrick researches deforestation in the Prey Lang forest
From 2010 to 2011, Fran Lambrick lived in this forest, researching the causes of deforestation and the effects of community forest management. During that period rubber companies were established which stupidly clearcut native forest, built custom, company owned housing, and displaced local people.
She reports it was startling to witness “the transformation from a traditional, independent way of life, to wage labor in the rubber plantations, working day and night under grueling conditions. The tangled web of corruption that enables the illegal logging and land grabs, spans the military, local operators and well-connected businessmen, and reaches right to the highest levels of government.” This spurred Lembrick to make a film about Prey Lang, and the struggle to protect the forest.
Journeyman Pictures has now released I Am Chut Wutty, Lambrick’s story of this sad string of events. In one of the last remaining wildernesses in South East Asia, a community of activists are struggling to defend their forest. The film is available on iTunes.
In Cambodia’s Prey Lang forest, deforestation is devastating the lives of the indigenous population. Environmental activist Chut Wutty was determined to fight the illegal practices of logging companies but when investigating a secret military controlled logging site, Wutty was murdered.
“He was not afraid of dying, he knew what he was doing. He told me that he would either die or be sent to jail in the end,” said Chey Oudorm, Chut Wutty’s son. According to him, Wutty was fully aware of the dangers of confronting Cambodia’s illegal loggers. Utterly dedicated to the cause of protecting his communitys culture, he turned down offers of protection to continue his fight against the companies destroying his homeland.
Chut Wutty led a group of activists called the Prey Lang Network. Descending upon a logging site armed only with cameras, they “…filmed the devastation the loggers have wrought, pointing out discarded equipment and huge piles of timber.” Unfortunately, he lost his life for this important cause.
People of the forest
Earth Action reports the Kuy people live in harmony with Prey Lang, but they believe the forest is for everyone. Their forest is our forest, too.
“Police armed with AK47s have broken up Prey Lang Network meetings, and members are being threatened with physical harm and criminal charges.
“The last hope for saving Prey Lang is if people and organizations from around the world send messages to the Cambodian Prime Minister letting him know the world is watching and urging him to protect Prey Lang.”
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