The Kingdom’s park rangers play a vital role in protecting the precious natural resources of Cambodia’s protected areas. They sometimes spend weeks on patrol deep in the most remote parts of the country, monitoring wildlife and keeping an eye out for the perpetrator of forest crimes.
Sometimes, their patrols mean they come into conflict with criminal gangs.
In Cambodia, there are more than 1,200 rangers, but just 42 of them are women. The perception that the job is dangerous, coupled with the demanding nature of the work and the long hours on patrol, mean few women consider it as a career.
Unlike many other women, who would rather be stay-home mothers – or work in garment factories, or elsewhere – Mon Phors has chosen to work as a park ranger. Her motivation stems from a deeply held belief that Cambodia’s natural resources must be protected.
For 15 days a month, she and her team are on patrol in the Cardamom Mountains in Pursat province. Even when she is not in the forest, she is working hard.
Phors is tasked with preparing logistics for each patrol, allocating rations and preparing supplies. Once in the forest, she is just another member of the team, patrolling long distances on their motorcycles and educating the people in the area about the importance of forest protection – all while keeping an eye out for wrongdoers.
As the only woman in the group, she does not hesitate to tackle the hardest tasks, saying she has the patience and dedication to fulfil her duties.
“If a man can do it, a woman can do it just as well,” she said.
“This job is not easy. One careless mistake could cost me my life or the lives of one of my team members. I am fortunate that we have worked together for a long time, and have excellent unity camaraderie,” added the 37-year-old.
Phors explained that she and her team have had run-ins with some of the criminal gangs that conduct illegal logging operations deep in the forests, where they believe they are safe from prying eyes.
She recalled some of the times her patrol found themselves challenged by large groups on motorcycles who were transporting illegal timber.
“Some of them are desperate men, and carry weapons that they are prepared to use. What is important is that we, as rangers, work together and find a solution as quickly as possible,” she said.
“I know I could choose another job, but I love my work, and I want to play a part in protecting the forest for the people of Cambodia – especially future generations,” she added.
She is serious about ensuring the Kingdom’s natural resources will be around to be enjoyed by today’s youth, as she has two children of her own. While she is on patrol, they stay with her mother. She and her husband try to spend as much time with them as possible, and she will be with them for a few days each month, before she sets out on patrol.
Phors sometimes questions her decision to leave her young children while she works to protect the forests, but ultimately her commitment to the well-being of the environment wins out.
“Sometimes I think I can fulfil my duty as a forest ranger, but I cannot fulfil my role as a good mother,” she said.
“But then I remember that the work that I do is very important for the future of the nation, and after all, my children are part of the next generation, so I am also working for them,” she added.
Despite her challenging role, she will continue to fight for the rights of the forest.
“I will always strive to serve Cambodia, protect the forests and preserve the wildlife,” she concluded.