Metta Forest’s Buddhist Statues Destroyed in Wind

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The broken Buddha statue in the Metta forest, in a supplied photo taken on September 23, 2022.

The Metta forest community in Kampong Speu says three Buddha statues around the forest’s pagoda have been destroyed after wind blew down nearby trees, and residents are blaming loggers who they say are continuing to cut down the surrounding forest.

Community member Soy Sat said the loggers, who are allegedly receiving orders from the military, had cut more trees around the pagoda in the past week, and three statues had also been destroyed amid high winds.

“This isn’t a random incident, because they cut all the trees so the taller trees aren’t strong enough to withstand the wind,” Sat said.

He added that the community had also found one peacock dead, while other wild animals could no longer be found in the forest.

The community had reported the renewed logging to authorities during the Pchum Ben holiday. “But no one came to help,” he said.

Kampong Speu governor Vei Samnang said he had received the complaint that the forest continued to be cut down, but authorities were on holiday and they would take action once Pchum Ben was over.

“But we won’t let it go, because it’s not only one or two days — they continue to destroy it. We can’t give up on this,” Samnang said.

The government privatized and handed about three-quarters of the forest to military families last year, and despite the community’s claim to the whole forest and attempts to stop the logging, most of the forest has already been cleared.

Heng Kimhong, an advocacy officer for the Cambodian Youth Network, said the clearing should have now stopped since it had already reached the pagoda borders.

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