Cambodia: the bhikkhus against deforestation

- through Fabrice Groult

Published on

Or how Buddhist monks fight against wood smuggling by “ordering” trees.

La deforestation is a major environmental threat in Cambodia. According to a World Bank report, 15% of forests have disappeared in twenty years. For several years, bhikkhus (“Buddhist monks”) have united in organizations such as the Monks Community Forest (MCF) and the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice (IMNSJ), to fight for their preservation. One of their actions is to carry out an “ordination” of the trees so that the loggers, often Buddhists, do not dare cut them down!

Wrap the trees in a saffron-colored cloth

Cambodia has lost significant forest cover due to extensive smuggling of logs and timber, often aided and abetted by the authorities, into neighboring countries including China and Vietnam. In May 2017, the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reported that approximately 300 cubic meters of timber with a commercial value of around US$000 million had been stolen and smuggled into protected areas from Cambodia to Vietnam, between December 75 and February 2016. “We lost the forest, which made the temperature higher and the rain unpredictable, which led to an increase in diseases and an increase in the release of carbon dioxide. carbon in the atmosphere," says Venerable Bun Saluth, head of Samrong Pagoda in Oddar Meanchey Province. In 2017 Venerable Bun Saluth established the Monks Community Forest (MCF) to protect an 2002 hectare forest. An action which in 18 received the “Equator” prize from the United Nations Development Programme.

“We lost the forest, which made the temperature higher and the rain unpredictable, leading to increased disease and increased release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. » Venerable Bun Saluth

Besides their regular patrols in the forest, bhikkhus and activists regularly organize Buddhist ceremonies involving the wrapping of trees in the saffron-colored cloth used to make the clothing of Buddhist clerics, in the hope that the loggers themselves Buddhists reflect on twice before felling the trees... An original practice to respond to the urgency of a situation that is getting worse year after year due to illegal logging, while local authorities rarely cooperate with activists, even consider their patrols in the forest as illegal activities.


Article published by the Institute of Buddhist Studies (

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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