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Prey Lang raises deforestation concerns

Ly Livsier / Khmer Times Share:
Prey Lang
Illegal loggers at work in the Prey Lang forest. Photo Supplied

Dozens of people representing families living in the Prey Lang protected area in Stung Treng province are demanding that the National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention revoke the license of Ci Biotech Company for allegedly breaching its contract with the government by destroying the environment.

The representatives are calling for the NCFCP to investigate the company for allegedly running a large-scale logging operation within the Prey Lang area.

Last month, the task force led a massive crack down on illegal logging and arrested a well-known tycoon in Mondulkiri province.

Cheang Li, coordinator of the Prey Lang Community Network, yesterday said the company has plundered natural resources for years and it has affected the economic well-being of thousands of Prey Lang families.

Ms Li said the company has cut down trees, harvested resin and cleared forests along streams within the conservation area.

“Those trees [containing resin] have been there for centuries and they were cut down without permission,” she said. “Villagers are losing their main source of income. Yet, local authorities have not addressed the issue.”

Ms Li added that the same authorities told villagers to sell their forest products to the company.

“The company’s foreman threatened villagers by saying they will cut down all their trees if they don’t sell it to the company,” she said. “They said they will give local police $100 to $200 as commission for each family convinced to sell their trees.”

Srey Vuthy, spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Prey Lang protected area covers the provinces of Kampong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear. It was designated as a wildlife sanctuary by the government in May 2016.

Ci-Biotech was given permission to invest in the area by the Agriculture Ministry in 2012 and was given 34,007 hectares as it established a sawmill called Angkor Plywood last year, according to Heng Sros, an environment activist investigating the issue.

Mr Sros said yesterday that according to the company’s contract with the Agriculture Ministry, it was supposed to also restore parts of the forest.

Mr Sros said instead of doing so, it has destroyed the environment by cutting down thousands of trees. He noted that if the government fails to act, people from the Prey Lang community will protest.

“If the government ignores their demands, they will gather in front of the Environment and Agriculture Ministries and accuse them of not doing their job well,” Mr Sros said.

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