Buddhist monks pit prayer against Cambodia’s desperate power needs and China’s profit motive.
An eco-warrior monk movement – activist students, farmers and villagers united behind monks who try to protect areas of forest, blessing trees to deter would-be loggers – has begun in Cambodia’s Central Cardamom Protected Forest.
Reflecting during the first ‘tree ordination’ in a forest on the edge of Ta Tay Leu village. The monks were too late to save the smaller trees.
Cambodian Buddhist monks and local people bless remaining trees – those too big for the loggers’ machinery – by wrapping orange cloth around them and praying. A proposed dam in the area would flood nine Khmer Daeum villages and their ancestral farmlands and ‘spirit forests’ and forcibly displace more than 900 villagers.
A poorly implemented Government project to give people land titles has led to massive deforestation as people claim areas of forest as their own, chopping down trees in favour of plantations. The monk movement aims to slow the forest destruction.
Children play among the felled trees in the Areng valley, which is at risk of being flooded by the 108 megawatt Stung Cheay Areng Dam.
A young girl in a party dress holds a baby Siamese crocodile in a village in the Areng Valley, where a family of Siamese crocodiles have been kept for protection after the nest was found in the wild and successfully hatched here. The British conservation group Fauna and Flora International says the proposed dam would destroy critical habitat for these and 30 other endangered animal species.