Nearly ten environmental activists were denied entry to the Prey Lang protected forest in Preah Vihear province on Saturday, when they planned to put up anti-logging banners.
Renowned activist Ouch Leng said on Saturday that he joined a group of six people from Phnom Penh to travel to Preah Vihear to put labels and banners saying “Protect Forests Together.”
However, authorities demanded a permission letter from the provincial governor and prevented them from entering.
Mr Leng said that his team observed a lot of two-wheel tractors going in and out of the region.
“The ban from entering Prey Lang is to prevent forest protection activists from witnessing crime and corruption in the area,” he claimed.
A 63-year-old elder who asked not to be named and has been living in Peuk village for many years, working as a forestry activist, also claimed that crime in Prey Lang occurs repeatedly, with many luxury woods logged illegally.
“The perpetrators have logged and transported illegal woods easily and smoothly, which seems to show that they have permission from official,” he alleged.
Chin Monorith, a Preah Vihear provincial ranger with the Ministry of Environment, dismissed the environmental activists’ claims, arguing that forest crime in Prey Lang is steadily decreasing.
“We did not ban them, we just wanted to know their intention in going to the protected areas. If they had contacted officials for permission they would have been granted entry,” Mr Monorith said.
Last week, Environment Minister Say Samal said environmental activists must submit a permission request to provincial authorities before going to patrol a protected area.
“It is also dangerous to go to these areas because some hunters use guns. We’re thinking about activists’ safety,” Mr Samal said.
Prey Lang covers four provinces, including Kampong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear. The government issued a sub-decree establishing the area as a wildlife sanctuary covering more 400,000 hectares in May 2016.