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NGO says guards obstructed them at Phnom Oral sanctuary

A man transports illegally felled timber out of Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary in Kampong Speu province last month by ox and cart. Photo supplied
A man transports illegally felled timber out of Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary in Kampong Speu province last month by ox and cart. Photo supplied

NGO says guards obstructed them at Phnom Oral sanctuary

Two representatives of a local environmental protection NGO investigating illegal logging in the Pursat province section of the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary claim they were denied entry to the area and detained for two hours.

Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization (NRWPO) director Chea Hean said he and colleague Sun Dara were stopped on Tuesday by seven sanctuary rangers at the O’Trav outpost while trying to enter the sanctuary in Veal Veng district, despite having earlier sent a letter to the department flagging their intentions.

“They said they did not know about the letter and, if we were determined to enter, they would arrest us and send us to court for violating their territory,” said Hean, who on the weekend had been gathering evidence he said shows authorities were taking bribes from illegal loggers in the part of the sanctuary located in Kampong Speu province.

While at the outpost, Hean saw about 30 mini-tractors go past into the forest and about 50 pieces of sokrom and thnong timber being unloaded about 200 metres behind the outpost, he said. Later, he saw vehicles loaded with timber leaving the area.

The drivers allegedly told Hean they paid $25 per vehicle to the O’Trav outpost, $100 for each load of thnong timber and $100 per month for firewood.

However, O’Trav outpost officer Khum Choeun denied the allegations.

“I saw two organisation officials who arrived here and they chatted and turned back because it was too hot,” he said. “There is no logging and hauling. I am afraid that the forest offences happen elsewhere.”

Environment Ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap said written permission from the ministry was not required to enter protected areas, but those wishing to investigate criminal activity needed to cooperate with the sanctuaries’ directors.

Hean said he planned to send all of his evidence to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Ministry of Environment.

Meanwhile, two Banteay Meanchey men were charged and put into pre-trial detention yesterday for transporting half a tonne of rosewood out of Preah Vihear province in a Lexus SUV.

The driver, Mao Thea, 34, and his assistant, Phan Phorn, 35, were arrested on Tuesday in Trapaing Prasat district after a high-speed chase across Oddar Meanchey province, said district military police commander Ly Darith.

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