The Pursat provincial joint forces are preparing a large-scale campaign to crack down on illegal logging and encroachment on state land, announced provincial governor Khoy Rida.

Speaking to The Post on June 11, Rida said nine teams were ready to deploy in Veal Veng district, and that 17 target locations have been identified. As it is the rainy season, the teams will be equipped with hiking gear, tents and their own food supply.

He explained that the illegal encroachment of state forests destroys biodiversity and natural resources on a large scale, and warned that the perpetrators came from all across the country to commit forest crimes.

“We are ready to go, but are waiting for a final meeting to decide on some operational details. I cannot go into detail of the locations that we will target, but can confirm that we have identified 17 locations where we believe forest crimes are taking place,” he said.

He added that the operation will take several days, and that the teams will face many challenges due to the isolated terrain, but are dedicated to their work.

“They will need to remain vigilant as they carry out the operation,” he added.

Stung Treng provincial administration spokesman Men Kung told The Post on June 11 that the province was also aware of large-scale logging taking place in three districts, Borei O’Svay Sen Chey, Sesan and Thala Barivat.

He said the administration will take strict action against the perpetrators, in accordance to the government’s principles.

“The first step is to stop the encroachments immediately, and return illegally occupied land to state management. If anyone fails to cooperate, arrests and legal action will follow,” he added.

While addressing a June 6 graduation ceremony for law students, judges and clerks of the Royal Academy of Justice of Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to work closely with local authorities to suppress deforestation, particularly as the national elections draw nearer.

He noted that cases of deforestation and encroachment on state land traditionally increased during the election period, and said that no tolerance would be shown for those committing these crimes.

“The government and the Cambodian People’s Party do not need or want votes from the kind of corrupt individuals who destroy natural resources or encroach on state or privately owned land,” he said.