The National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention on Wednesday ordered Phnom Penh and provincial governors to halt destroying timber seized during crackdowns on illegal logging and keep it for auction.
In a statement on Wednesday, NCFCP head General Sao Sokha asked Phnom Penh and provincial authorities to preserve the quality and quantity of timber confiscated during their crackdowns this year.
“Please keep it safe from being lost or burnt by any chance and save it for the upcoming auctions as part of the contributions to the national budget,” Gen Sokha said in the statement. “Phnom Penh and provincial governors must disseminate the instruction and take serious actions.”
Gen Sokha noted that relevant authorities must send reports and attach photos of seized timber and other forest by-products to the NCFCP.
NCFCP spokesperson Brigadier General Eng Hy yesterday said that seized timber will not only serve as evidence presented to the courts, but also contribute to the government’s budget.
“The instruction aims to raise the awareness of relevant authorities to stop destroying or burning the timbers seized from their crackdowns and store it in good condition because some types of timbers are prone to decay,” he said.
Mondulkiri provincial Governor Svay Sam Eang yesterday said he ordered provincial officials to ensure that seized timber is being stored properly.
“Since July, our provincial authorities have confiscated nearly 9,000 cubic metres of timbers. Some decayed so we burned it down,” he said. “We will figure out ways how to store the remaining timbers and forest products for auctions.”
In July, the NCFCP arrested a well-known timber tycoon Soeng Sam Ol over a large-scale illegal logging operation in Mondulkiri province. He was arrested by military police along with two of his managers.
Mr Sam Eang noted that since then, the crackdowns have been carried out randomly but in small-scale operations.
Environmental activist Ouch Leng, chairman of the Cambodia Human Rights Task Force, an NGO working on forestry crime, yesterday voiced his concerns over corruption and collusion among authorities to give green light to illicit loggers, saying that stricter action against forest crimes should be taken.
“I don’t want to see large-scale illegal logging closed down and then be opened, off and on,” he said. “The government always looks at the benefit of timber business rather than real forest conservation. And some proof of forest crime were omitted or ignored by the government in order to hide illegality of logging companies.”