More than 100 civil society organisations and local communities have accused park rangers of restricting their rights when they were prevented from holding a blessing ceremony in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary last week.
On Saturday and Sunday, Prey Lang Community Network members in four provinces were banned from organising blessing ceremonies scheduled to have been performed in protected forests in Preah Vihear province because they failed to produce a permission letter from the Ministry of Environment.
According to a joint statement issued on Tuesday by 103 civil society organisations and communities, they regretted that they were banned from holding the blessing ceremony.
“We care about Cambodia’s forests which have rapidly disappeared over the past several decades. We know that grassroots community groups such as the PLCN are committed to conserving the protected forests, the statement said.
Hoeun Sopheap, a PLCN representative in Kampong Thom province, said yesterday the communities have participated in protecting the natural resources in the Prey Lang sanctuary for about 20 years, but now they were accused of doing illegal activities.
‘‘In the past, we were able to enter the forest freely to do our activities. But recently it has become harder and harder for us. The ministry has restricted our activities,’’ he said.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of monitoring from the rights group Licadho, said the Environment Ministry should allow PLCN members to help protect Prey Lang wildlife sanctuary.
“This grassroots community network must be allowed to conduct its conservation activities free from harassment and intimidation,” he said.
With an area of more than 430,000 hectares, Prey Lang covers Kampong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear provinces.
Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said yesterday the PLCN should register its name at the Ministry of Interior so its patrolling activities become legitimate.
“The Ministry of the Environment is always ready to continue its collaboration with the Prey Lang Community Network if it is legally registered in accordance with the Cambodian law,’’ he said. “Otherwise, the ministry will consider its activities in the protected area under the Ministry of Environment as violating the law.’’