Illegal loggers have cleared 30-hectares of community forest land, close to the site of thousands of natural stone pillars in Mondulkiri province, felling hundreds of trees and leaving the area barren.
Kreung Tola, an indigenous Bunong, told Khmer Times yesterday that the loggers were outsiders who recently cleared the area in Lam Me village of Pichreada district’s Busra commune.
He said the Bunong community was able to ascertain that the trees were felled this month from the condition of the wood.
“The authorities were negligent in preventing illegal logging activities taking place, because they were busy protecting other places and the location where the loggers were operating was also remote. We felt very sad when we got the information that so many trees had been felled.”
Tola noted that in the past, the indigenous Bunong community had cleared land for small-scale farming with permission, and in accordance with the community’s internal regulations, but the illegal loggers had carried out large-scale destruction of the forest.
“The cleared area is about 100 metres away from the site of thousands of natural stone pillars that the Ministry of Environment claims to be one million years old. Although the natural stone pillars were not affected, the encroachment has affected our traditions because it was an indigenous heritage area.”
In January, indigenous groups in Lam Me village found thousands of natural stone pillars in the forest and claimed that a group of Vietnamese and Cambodians had conspired to remove them to sell. Later, environmental officials visited the site and said they would establish a Lamme heritage conservation site to preserve the national treasures, ancestral heritage and the traditional beliefs of the Bunong people, including registering it as state land and putting up boundary markers.
Colonel Tak Yen, Pichreada district police chief, confirmed that illegal logging had taken place in the area.
“We could not catch the perpetrators because when the police arrived, they had already fled. According to the investigation, clearing had been done long before our raid,” he said.