Hello and welcome to Episode 6 of the Anakut podcast.
We’re getting into the last leg of the season here with only two more installments to go before completing our eight-episode run. If you’ve been following us from the start, I want to thank you for walking this path with us; if this is your very first episode of the podcast, you’ve picked a great time to tune in!
This week, Thina and I are taking a (digital) trip to Cambodia’s own Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the last great forests of the region and the site of critical battles for conservation, good governance and indigenous land rights. The big forest spans four Cambodian provinces, is among the last major contiguous woodlands in the region and is known as the largest remaining lowland evergreen forest in mainland Southeast Asia. It’s also home to many groups of indigenous peoples including the Kuy, from whose language we get the name Prey Lang itself – it means “Our Forest” in their tongue.
Unfortunately, as rich as the forest is with biodiversity and cultural significance, it’s the material bounty of its land and timber that has caught the most attention of outsiders. Prey Lang, much of which is nominally protected by law, is now experiencing a massive level of illegal deforestation that local activists and international observers alike say is made possible by corruption.
The area is also a major part of the natural heritage of Cambodia as a whole, not to mention a critical test of state capacity and anti-corruption efforts
In recent years, authorities have only continued to escalate restrictions on civil society groups committed to monitoring the forest for illicit activity. For its part, the Cambodian Ministry of Environment denies that large-scale logging is happening in protected areas and has threatened activists with arrest for using satellite imagery to track deforestation.
The dire situation in Prey Lang is clearly of significance to local people, many of whom depend on the forest for their livelihood, but the area is also a major part of the natural heritage of Cambodia as a whole, not to mention a critical test of state capacity and anti-corruption efforts. To walk us through these thorny woods, we invited on the show Moeu Chandara, an activist from the Cambodian Youth Network with first-hand experience in Prey Lang. We also had Fran Lambrick, a co-founder of environmental and human rights group Not1More and director of the documentary I Am Chut Wutty, a film about the titular Cambodian conservationist slain in 2012 by military police in Koh Kong province.
This episode ended up being a big, info-dense conversation full of both historic context and some of the latest updates from Prey Lang, where some experts estimate at least one football pitch of forest is now being cleared every hour. Don’t wait to give this one a listen – scroll up and hit that play button.