The Goldman Environmental Prize winner Ouch Leng, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force, has been awarded the Asia Game Changer Award for 2017 from the Asia Society.
Mr Leng will go to collect the award in New York on November 1 with eight other winners from around the world.
“I’m excited because the previous winners were famous people,” he said. “I’m wondering why this organisation selected me to get the award this year, because I didn’t submit anything, am not a wealthy person and only protected forests and the environment.”
Mr Leng noted that previous winners have included China’s richest online businessman Jack Ma and boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.
A 42-year-old forest activist, Mr Leng has been an outspoken critic of the timber business networks.
“They recognised my work to change society, that my voice has encouraged young people and citizens to stand up and protect forests and the environment,” he said.
“Moreover, my work has made the government have the willingness to prevent the cross-border transport of timber.
“The government vowed to crackdown on forest crimes and make arrests. How successful it has been is up for debate, but at least the willingness is there.”
Mr Leng said forests are a part of the heritage of ancestors left for the next generation, and must be protected.
He said he has dedicated his life to environmental protection because no one else was standing up against the powerful government officials and business tycoons looting the country’s forests.
He added that wining the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2016 likely enhanced his chances of winning his most recent award.
The Asia Society is a leading educational organisation dedicated to promoting mutual understanding of Asia in a global context and strengthening partnerships among people, leaders and institutions across the fields of the arts, business, culture, education, and policy.
This year’s nine winners include a young woman using rap music to fight trauma in Afghanistan, a trailblazing CEO changing urban life in China, a Hollywood star building bridges between India and the world, and Mr Leng, an environmentalist placing his life on the line to stop deforestation.