An outspoken environmental watchdog has submitted a letter to the Ministry of Environment requesting that the Pursat and Koh Kong provincial environmental departments combat illegal logging and timber hauling at the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary and the Cardamom Mountains range.
Chea Hean – director of the NGO Anti-Corruption, Natural Resource Protection and Civil Rights Protection (ACNCIPO) – said on March 1 that after investigating forestry crimes in there over three weeks in February, his organisation observed that deforestation and timber transportation using bulldozers persisted. He alleged that environmental authorities had taken no action to enforce the government-imposed bans on logging.
Hean said that on February 7, he received information from people in the Phnom Oral sanctuary that tractors were logging timber and removing it, seemingly under the nose of the Ampil and Boeung Thlong sub-offices.
He alleged that there was even timber, furniture and luxury wood hidden near the Boeung Thlong sub-office.
“This timber had been sawn already. It is likely that the perpetrators plan to transport it to Kampong Speu and Kampong Chhnang provinces. If they intend to take it to Kampong Chhnang, they must pass through the Ampil sub-office, while the timber sent to Kampong Speu province will be taken via Thpong district to Odong through the Boeung Thlong sub-office,” he said.
He added that the survey of the Cardamom Mountain Conservation Area on the border of Koh Kong province – in Thma Bang and Sre Ambel districts – showed that wood was being transported continuously, resulting in heavy deforestation.
“At Anlong Angkunh, it is transported from Samrong to Oral [in Kampong Speu], and at Chhay Reang, it is transported from Koh Kong province to Kampong Speu,” he said.
Hean said the two to three environmental officers stationed at each office did not appear to be taking any action to halt these crimes.
“One of them told me that every time he observed criminal activity, he was afraid for his safety because the perpetrators are usually armed. The situation is complex – he was fearful of enforcing the law because the area is so remote,” Hean said, adding that he planned to report the crimes to the Anti-Corruption Unit if the environment ministry ignored his letter.
Pursat provincial environment department director Kong Puthyra told The Post on March 2 that officials never ceased working and were always patrolling and taking action against forestry crime.
Koh Kong provincial environment department director Hun Marady said he would review the sites and take action according to what he found.