Nearly 400 members of the Prey Lang Community Network will hold the annual Prey Lang ceremony in late March to commemorate and preserve indigenous identities and promote the forest’s potential.
Meanwhile, Prey Lang activists have claimed illegal logging still exists in the area, even though the government has designated it a protected site.
According to a PLCN press release on Tuesday, the ceremony and tree blessing will be held from March 26 to 27 in Prey Lang at the boundaries of Kampong Thom, Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.
During the ceremony, members will commemorate the forest, pray that it remains intact to preserve the identity of the Kouy ethnic minority living there, promote awareness of their community and show why the government decided to preserve the area.
The Prey Lang forest, which the government set as a wildlife sanctuary in May 2016, covers four provinces, including Kampong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear.
Hoeun Sopheap, a PLCN member in Kampong Thom province, said yesterday that 380 members would attend the ceremony, which was also open to the general public if they wished to join.
He said forest crimes continued to occur in the Prey Lang forest, which required further attention from relevant ministries and institutions.
“I request authorities, especially the Environment Ministry, to take strict measures against deforestation in the Prey Lang area, because there is timber being transported in some locations, and there are also rangers in some locations, but we don’t know if they know or are conspiring with the perpetrators,” he said.
Srey Thiy, a PLCN representative in Preah Vihear province, said forest crimes in the Prey Lang forest in his province occurred almost daily because there were so few rangers to prevent them.
“The crimes won’t decrease if there aren’t enough officers. So we ask the environment side to be more transparent in management,” he said.
“Before, we could patrol Prey Lang easily, but now we have to inform the Environment Ministry, the environment department or provincial authorities to go inside the area. So, we want the ministry to open it for us so we can protect the forest in Prey Lang.”
Environment Ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap welcomed the Prey Lang ceremony as long as it was held in accordance with legal principles and in collaboration with environmental officials and local authorities in the area.
“We collaborate together in awareness-raising activities or to protect and preserve, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Mr Sopheap asked PLCN members to work with environmental officials and rangers in the four provinces to address the crime that occurs in the Prey Lang forest while the number of rangers is still low.