Siem Reap provincial deputy governor Ngan Phirun has instructed authorities to immediately put a stop to all activities at more than 140 illegal logging sites in or near protected areas and biodiversity corridors in the province to prevent further deforestation.

Phirun announced the operation at a meeting of the technical coordination committee of the Siem Reap provincial council on December 23 without specifying which protected areas or corridors the illegal logging or timber processing was taking place at.

According to a press release issued by the Siem Reap provincial hall on December 23, the deputy governor instructed the relevant authorities to implement the provincial administration’s letter dated December 8 ordering authorities to raid the locations of factories and handicrafts workshops using illegal timber and any warehouses containing it that are located in or near the protected areas.

“According to the data, the processing sites in or near the protected areas and biodiversity corridors in Siem Reap province were to be found in 146 different locations as of September, and only three of those are possibly legal. Shut them all down immediately,” he said.

Phirun told the authorities to annul all official signatures or certifications of title transfer, land use applications, state land purchase agreements and confirmation of title deeds for land in the protected areas and in the biodiversity corridors identified by the Ministry of Environment.

The deputy governor warned that any commune administration officials that continued to violate the law by providing signatures confirming anyone’s private ownership of land in protected areas or biodiversity corridors in their jurisdictions will face criminal prosecution for it and those seeking such signatures shouldn’t bother trying because they are all considered null and void without exception.

Also, Phirun said that charcoal production in the wildlife sanctuary area in Chi Kraeng district was presenting problems because it wasn’t just for community needs but actually a part of an export business to Kampong Thom province, so it needed to be shut down, but those responsible should be warned and educated first before taking any legal action.

Siem Reap provincial deputy governor Ly Samrith said on December 26 that he had not yet been notified or informed about any progress by the authorities in cracking down on these wood processing sites – referring all questions to the Siem Reap provincial administration director Sok Thol – who also stated that he didn’t have any further information at this time when contacted by The Post.