In brief

Deforestation threatens future of Cambodia’s Indigenous peoples

Amnesty International denounces violation of economic, cultural rights of the Kuy

Illegal logging in Prey Lang.
Illegal logging in Prey Lang. Author: Prey Lang Community Network
Indigenous peoples in Cambodia face an “existential threat” because of illegal logging in their ancestral lands. Amnesty International so says in a new report that points to the “corruption” of Cambodian officials as a factor driving deforestation.

The report focuses on the situation in the Prey Lang and Preah Roka wildlife sanctuaries, located near the course of the Mekong, one of Asia’s major rivers. The report is based on interviews to 20 community activists from the Kuy, Cambodia’s largest Indigenous people, with some 70,000 members.

The Kuys’ livelihoods, the report explains, “depend largely on the sustainable use” of these forests. The Kuy obtain resins for family use or to sell them on the market, without needing to cut down the trees. The forests also have central cultural, relational and religious significance to the Kuy.

But illegal logging is reducing the forest area and is complicating the livelihoods of the Kuy, who report that Cambodian officials are accepting bribes in exchange for turning a blind eye to the situation.

The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) denounced in its 2021 report that the “discrimination” and “forced displacement” endureds by Cambodia’s Indigenous peoples “is extinguishing them as distinct groups,” a “pattern” resulting from the ventures of both the state and transnational companies “for resource extraction” in ancestral Indigenous lands.

A local association, the Prey Lang Community Network, patrols the forest on a monthly basis to report such illegal logging and, in case of encountering loggers without permission, to try to raise their awareness of the need to protect the forest.