The Kuy people of Cambodia are asking for your help In Cambodia, some 200,000 mostly indigenous Kuy villagers are desperately trying to prevent the destruction of Prey Lang (“Our Forest”). In 2002, working with other forest communities, they won their first victory and persuaded the government to ban logging concessions. But their victory was short lived as the government continued to grant concessions to agro-industry and mining companies—both of which destroy old-growth forests. To carry on the fight, the Kuy and other groups formed the Prey Lang Community Network and ramped up their protests. In 2011 they gained international attention when they organized demonstrations in Phnom Penh and painted themselves blue, wearing leaf-hats, calling themselves Cambodia’s ‘Avatars’, after the James Cameron film. But increased visibility has caused increased repression. Police armed with AK-47s have broken up Network meetings, and members are being threatened with physical harm and criminal charges. In 2011, almost 400 Prey Lang Network activists from around the forest converged on company sites to advocate against their clearing. They maintained a vigil for three days but eventually disbanded when food and water supplies were cut and they were surrounded by hundreds of armed personnel. But they have not given up. They want, and need, you to join them. “We Kuy have been here for generations, and the forest did not disappear,” Ru Lark, Network member and elder, said. “We know how to take care of it but now, with new developments, we need the government’s help to protect and manage the forest in a sustainable way.” “In our language, Prey Lang means “Our Forest,” activist Phai Vun Leang explained. “This forest is for everyone. Prey Lang is YOUR forest, too. Please help save it.” What’s so special about the Prey Lang forest? Biodiversity: The core area of primary, lowland, evergreen forest covers about 200,000 acres, surrounded by 670,000 acres of secondary forest. All together, the forest has seven distinct ecosystems, including a primordial swamp forest, that provide habitat to more than 50 endangered animal and bird species. Most areas remain largely unexplored by scientists. Elephants still roam wild in parts of Prey Lang. Food & Water Security: The Prey Lang forest is a vital source of water for Cambodia’s rice growing region and for the Mekong delta. As a primary watershed regulating water and sediment flow to the Tonle Sap Basin, and as an important fish spawning area, Prey Lang is vital for Cambodia’s long-term environmental sustainability and for food and water security. Climate Stabilization: Left standing, the Prey Lang forest has among the highest carbon sequestration values in the region, and is a powerhouse for fighting global warming. Cambodia’s Forest Administration has identified Prey Lang as an important area for conservation, with high potential for carbon-credit financing. Sustaining Life: The Prey Lang forest meets the food, water, livelihood and spiritual needs of the Kuy communities. They build their rice fields along Prey Lang’s edges and go into the forest for hunting, fishing, and gathering fruits and herbs for food and ceremonies. They tap several species of trees and collect the resin for making torches and caulking boats. Resin has become the main source of cash for many Kuy families who sell it for industrial use. Overall, the forest is the spiritual center of their lives.