Inaccuracies in Phnom Penh Post Article Reporting Criticism of Cambodia Burning Film - Sean Gallagher - Photographer & Filmmaker | Beijing, China

Inaccuracies in Phnom Penh Post Article Reporting Criticism of Cambodia Burning Film

Posted by on Nov 6, 2020 in News | No Comments

I am writing this post in response to the publication of an article, in print and online, in the Phnom Penh Post on 3rd November 2020 titled, Prey Lang documentary wins awards, draws ministry’s criticism, written by Phnom Penh Post journalist, Khouth Sophak Chakrya.

The article contains a number of inaccuracies that I believe need correcting, so that anyone interested in this story and this issues it covers have a true and accurate account of my film and its production.

At no point prior to the publication was I approached for comment, or asked to help clarify facts about some of the information contained in the article, hence the need to publicly clarify information here.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Phnom Penh Post, you can learn more about the publication via Wikipedia and this BBC article.

Below, I shall reproduce the article of the text and highlight, in bold, with the appropriate corrections.

Prey Lang documentary wins awards, draws ministry’s criticism INNACURATE – The film is not a ‘documentary’ and does not depict deforestation and forest fires in only the Prey Lang forest. It does contain footage shot in Prey Lang but it also contains footage from other locations, forests and wildlife sanctuaries around central and northern Cambodia, notably in and around the Beng Per Wildlife Sanctuary, a largely destroyed nature reserve.

A documentary film titled Cambodia Burning produced by the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) won two awards – “Earth Photo 2020” and “Drone Photo 2020” – from the US-based Pulitzer Centre. INACCURATE – The film, Cambodia Burning, was produced by me alone and the Prey Lang Community Network had no role in its production. The film has been shortlisted and been named a finalist in two awards but they were not awarded by, or affiliated with, the Pulitzer Center. The film was shortlisted by the Earth Photo Awards, announced in July 2020, and the Drone Photo Awards were announced in September 2020, giving the film a Highly Commended accolade.

The film, which has drawn criticism from a senior Ministry of Environment official, was photographed and produced by Sean Gallagher of Britain early this year as he researched and recorded “climate crisis” and environmental issues in Cambodia, including deforestation and forest fires in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary. ACCURATE – This film was part of my Pulitzer Center supported project, also titled Cambodia Burning.

The awards were announced by the Pulitzer jury in August in the US state of Massachusetts. INACCURATE – The Pulitzer Center did not issue any award and no jury convened to do so in August, or any other month.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Gallagher said local PLCN members – mainly farmers and local residents who travel by motorbike patrolling the forest to check for illegal logging and poaching – stopped trucks full of freshly logged trees in Prey Lang. ACCURATE – Please refer to my Facebook Page.

“Totalling over 3,500sq km, Prey Lang is one of Asia’s most threatened evergreen woodlands,” Gallagher wrote. ACCURATE – Learn more here and via links at bottom of this article.

PLCN was also awarded EU Green 2020 recognition in October from EU Green Week of Denmark. ACCURATE – Learn more here, via the Prey Lang Community Network Facebook page.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra disapproved of the awards. He said that by photographing the forest and acting as a natural resource protector, the group took advantage of sacrifices made by the true natural resource protectors and conservationists.

“Natural resources protection and conservation in Cambodia is not exclusive to any individual. What they have done is just for the benefits of their own group. They should not have been praised because they just prepared plans to get financial support and give in to demands of certain donors,” he said.

Pheaktra said a genuine effort is made by officials from the environment ministry, including forest rangers and communities in protected areas, not activists.

I hope this helps in clarifying the correct facts about the production of the film. You can watch it for free below.

Cambodia Burning [4K] កម្ពុជាកំពុងឆេះ from Sean Gallagher on Vimeo.

You can also learn more about Prey Lang and the threats it is facing via the recent articles and links below:

As loggers exploit virus, Cambodian forest protectors defy state ban – Reuters – 2020

They never intended to conserve it’: Outcry as loggers gut Cambodian reserve – Mongabay – 2020

Authorities Threaten to Arrest Activists Monitoring Illegal Logging in Cambodia’s Prey Lang Forest – Radio Free Asia – 2020

Gov’t, USAID Criticized for Inaction Over Severe Forest Loss at Prey Lang Sanctuary – The Cambodia Daily – 2020

Cambodia: Environmental Activists Harassed – Human Rights Watch – 2020


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