Residents in Preah Vihear province are asking the government to allow local communities to take part in the management of the Prey Lang protected forest.
The residents made the plea on Tuesday during a public forum on the effectiveness of law enforcement in curbing the plunder of natural resources in the protected forest. Nearly 300 people, consisting of indigenous community members, local residents and authorities attended the forum.
Chhun Leang, a resident from Reab Roy commune, said despite community patrols, forestry crimes in Prey Lang still occur, especially at night.
“Some of the loggers are people from the area around Prey Lang. There are some outsiders too who were hired by rich dealers to log. Our community is very concerned about the loss of natural resources in Prey Lang,” Mr Leang said, noting that the Environment Ministry and local authorities should intervene and strengthen law enforcement.
Puth Chim, a representative of an indigenous community, said they should be allowed to participate in protecting the forest.
“The management of environmental officials and provincial authorities is not good yet because the crimes still occur,” he said. “So if they allow our communities to participate there will be more people involved.”
“Another thing is that we live there and can contribute towards the protection and conservation of resources,” he added.
According to a press release from Prey Lang Community Network in the province, Prey Lang is one of the last remaining large forests in Cambodia and in the Indo-Burma region and has many kinds of rare plants and about 27 rare species of animals.
It said that although the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, covering more than 430,000 hectares in Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom, Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, has been gazette as a protected area since early 2016, it still faces threats from land grabs, illegal logging and timber transportation almost daily.
The statement noted that thousands of resin trees of the communities have been logged illegally.
Sou Serey, provincial deputy governor who attended the public forum, said that the authorities agreed to the requests from the communities and would continue to work with them to effectively prevent crimes and better protect and preserve natural resources in the province.
“We agreed for them to participate and we also reminded them to respect the law because in some cases if there is no permission from the people living in the areas, outsiders dare not go in to log,” he said.
“In other cases some communities want to expand the size of their living area and illegally clear the forest.”