The Ministry of Environment is investigating a group that erected more than 50 stone and wooden posts and built fences on State land in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province.
Its spokesman Neth Pheaktra said he recently inspected the activities while leading a delegation and a group of journalists on a trip to the sanctuary.
“Fences are being erected illegally. We are investigating who is behind this because it is a serious matter,” Pheaktra said.
And he had a message for the perpetrators: “Stop this activity immediately because it’s illegal. We will enforce the law without any exception.”
Mondulkiri province is home to six protected areas with a total area of one million hectares. They are the wildlife sanctuaries at Keo Seima, Srepok, Phnom Nam Lear, Lumphat, Phnom Prich, and the northeast biodiversity conservation corridor.
To manage them, the Mondulkiri provincial Department of Environment employs 104 rangers while the ministry has 1,200 rangers nationwide acting as forest guards to protect and conserve natural resources and prevent crime in protected areas.
The rangers organise patrols on foot and use motorbikes and cars. They collect information through the use of modern technology, with technical support from partner organisations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Forest activist Kreung Tola said large-scale encroachment on State land in Mondulkiri province has stopped. However, small-scale encroachment still occurs on areas of 10ha or less.
“If we want to identify the mastermind, just ask the local authority, village or commune. Find out who is behind it, arrest one or two officials involved in the crime and put them in jail. Then we will know the mastermind,” Tola said.
Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary head Prum Vibol Ratanak said posts have been set up on hundreds of hectares of State land and rangers have been patrolling and removing them.
“This is not the first time that we have removed the posts. We have done it many times and have removed hundreds of posts from this location. Today we removed more than 50 wooden poles,” he said.
The Mondulkiri provincial environment department said rangers patrolled the protected areas 2,995 times this year and investigated 1,528 forest crimes.
Eighty-four cases have been sent to court, 26 settled with fines, 364 chainsaws seized, 34 vehicles impounded and 2,957 traps removed.
Pheaktra said Cambodia has a total of 66 natural protected areas and biodiversity conservation corridors, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, multi-use areas, and landscape protection areas totalling 7.3 million hectares or 41 per cent of the Kingdom’s total land area.