Rights group Licadho said yesterday that a forestry crime reporting mechanism set in place by Koh Kong provincial Governor Mithona Phouthorng to protect tipsters is ineffective as residents fear repercussion from powerful figures.
Ms Mithona on Monday called on local communities in protected areas to muster up courage and report forestry crimes to relevant officials.
She said that a system was already set up to facilitate the anonymous reporting of forestry crimes witnessed by members of local communities.
“We have a system in place to ensure the security of the people who report the crimes,” she said. “The procedure is safe and people can report by calling the authorities. We won’t disclose their identities and they could also call us under anonymity.”
Hou Inn, a coordinator with Licadho, said yesterday that the reporting system is ineffective because villagers still fear repercussion from powerful figures.
“The mechanism won’t likely work because normal people are more concerned about their safety,” he said. “If they informed the authorities about crimes, those responsible for it could be connected to the powerful.”
Mr Inn added that the most effective way of dealing with forestry crimes is for the authorities to be more involved in crime prevention.
“The most important thing is that they have the information because the authorities do not tend to have concrete evidence, especially of those connected to powerful people,” he said. “They could only arrest the transporters, while the real criminals get away. They need to take further action.”
Y Meangleng, director of the provincial department of agriculture, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The Environmental Investigation Agency reported in May that more than one million cubic metres of illegal timber flowed unhindered from protected areas in Cambodia’s northeastern provinces to Vietnam.
Vietnam signed a timber trade agreement with the European Union, prompting large volumes of illegal timber to flow across the Cambodian border from protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries in three provinces, it said.
Millions of dollars in bribes are paid to forest rangers, military personnel, police and media as trucks travel down a “road of tolls” to Vietnam, the report added.
Minister of Environment Say Samal said that the report was cooked and baseless after its release.