Prey Lang Community Network activists have urged the Ministry of Environment and local authorities to increase prevention of forest crimes in Prey Lang Forest following patrols during which they found many cases.
Network representative in Kampong Thom province Hoeun Sopheap said yesterday that after patrolling parts of the forest from July 25 to 28, illegal logging and wildlife operations were discovered, many operating under the cover of nightfall.
“We can say that forest crimes have decreased a little bit, but the forest still continues to be destroyed,” he said.
“The most common crime is illegal logging, during which loggers cut down trees and carry the logs out with tractors during the night.”
Mr Sopheap added that his NGO workers seized two chainsaws and two guns during recent patrols.
According to Mr Sopheap, forestry offences continued because corrupt officials turned a blind eye to the crimes.
Srey Thiy, who works with the NGO in Preah Vihear province, said patrols there from July 23 to 27 also led to the seizure of a chainsaw used for felling luxury timber.
“When we patrolled, the crime was a bit quiet, but the crime would occur a lot if we didn’t patrol the area,” he said.
“I also think that those forestry crimes have some high-ranking officers behind them.”
Prey Lang Forest covers four provinces, including Kompong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng and Preah Viher, which the government set as a wildlife sanctuary in May 2016.
Prey Lang community representative in Kratie province Ek Sovanna said his team’s patrols led to the seizure of a chainsaw and nine two-wheel tractors used for transporting wood, while the Prey Lang Community Network in Stung Treng province also detected forest crimes, confiscating a chainsaw.
The NGO workers want forest rangers to ramp up patrols overnight, when they believe most crimes are occurring.
Kampong Thom provincial Environment Department ranger Sok Khon dismissed the collusion claims levelled by the NGO.
Mr Khon said there has been a significant decrease in forestry crimes in the forest and added that although some smaller operations persisted, ranger officers were not involved.
“We have been receiving orders from the upper level to crack down and patrol rigorously,” he said.