Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - RCAF stripping timber from Oral Wildlife Sanctuary: probe

RCAF stripping timber from Oral Wildlife Sanctuary: probe

A truck transports timber through Kampong Speu province in June after it was allegedly removed from Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary. Chea Hean
A truck transports timber through Kampong Speu province in June after it was allegedly removed from Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary. Chea Hean

RCAF stripping timber from Oral Wildlife Sanctuary: probe

Military vehicles are hauling wood from a protected area to be burned as fuel in garment factories, investigators from NGO Wildlife Alliance (WA) have found.

A WA employee, who asked not to be named as they are not authorised to speak to the press, confirmed yesterday that the revelation comes as the product of “days and nights” spent observing trucks with Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) number plates transporting timber out of the Oral Wildlife Sanctuary to be used as fuel at garment factories.

The Post obtained a copy of a letter dated February 2 and signed by Brigadier General Prom Choeun asking Kampong Speu Provincial Court not to interfere with two RCAF trucks tasked with transporting wood from the sanctuary, citing operational requirements. Prom could not be reached.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said yesterday that he was unaware of the letter but that some units make use of firewood for cooking, but that to use it for private gain would be illegal.

“We use military trucks only for military operations, not civilian,” he said.

Seng Bunra, country director of NGO Conservation International (CI), said yesterday that RCAF trucks have become notorious for taking wood from the wildlife sanctuary. However, he only became aware it was destined for factories on Monday.

“The army trucks are very active, transporting fuel wood from the Oral Wildlife Sanctuary . . . I learned from Wildlife Alliance yesterday that it’s not really for cooking but maybe [being taken] to garment factories,” Bunra said.

William Conklin, country director for labour rights NGO Solidarity Centre, said it was not the first time he had heard of factories using wood for fuel.

“From my understanding, you could use it for certain things to cut down on energy costs, so possibly drying or anything else where that could be converted into energy,” Conklin said. “Energy prices are very high here; it’s the most expensive part of production.”

Bunra’s conversation with WA took place during a meeting chaired by the Environment Ministry and called by a third NGO, Kampong Speu-based Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation (NRWPO), to discuss authorities’ alleged lack of response to forest crimes in the wildlife sanctuary.

NRWPO director Chea Hean yesterday said he was unaware of WA’s findings but that he had observed several trucks laden with wood leaving the sanctuary.

“Several heavy trucks are transporting firewood every night, each loaded with up to 30 cubic metres of timber,” Hean said, adding trees had been logged in the park for firewood since 2006. “Such cargo absolutely violates the law on wildlife sanctuaries; if it’s not cracked down on, the forest will completely decimated.”

Sao Sopheap, spokesman for the Environment Ministry, which took control of Cambodia’s protected forests in March, was not reachable.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Cambodia planning new border checkpoint at Thma Da

    Cambodia is looking into the possibility of opening a new Thma Da Border Checkpoint with Thailand to boost trade and tourism. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said on December 4 that Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol led a technical working group