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Illlegal constructions in protected areas demolished

Sen David / Khmer Times Share:
One of the illegal structures is dismantled and burnt by a park ranger. Ministry of Environment

Park rangers over the weekend found three illegal structures built in natural protected areas in the provinces of Siem Reap and Kratie, the Ministry of Environment revealed yesterday. The structures are said to have been the hiding sites of illegal loggers and poachers.

The ministry said patrolling rangers on Saturday found and dismantled one house illegally built on two hectares of forest land in Siem Reap’s Phnom Kulen National Park. The following day, rangers discovered two illegal buildings erected within Kratie’s Prey Lang forest area.

“The park rangers dismantled the illegal structures. Unfortunately, those behind the land encroachment escaped. A search for the suspects is underway,” the Environment Ministry said in a statement.

Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told Khmer Times yesterday 1,200 rangers patrol daily in 60 protected areas and biodiversity conservation areas, which cover more than 7.2 million hectares, to crack down on wildlife and forestry crimes.

However, despite such efforts, Mr Pheaktra said forestry crimes still occur, especially land-clearing activities for the selling of the land, cultivation or private ownership. “Encroachment on these lands has harmed natural resources and biodiversity,” he said, adding people who do not have land may request for social land concessions instead of resorting to illegal land clearing.

“The park rangers also preserve wildlife by removing traps set by poachers,” said Mr Pheaktra.

He noted in 2019, park rangers cracked down on 4,746 cases of forestry and wildlife crimes. From these, 2,531 logging equipment were seized.

Despite the figures, Mr Pheaktra said the scale of the offences are small, with most of these being committed by villagers living around the protected areas.

“The ministry has been implementing plans to discourage them from turning to forestry crimes for survival by promoting eco-tourism, which will generate more job opportunities and income for the residents,” he said.

Cambodian Youth Network deputy president Sar Mory yesterday appealed for regular patrols in conservation areas given the persisting reports of crimes from community networks.

“We support the park rangers who actively patrol and protect the conservation areas but we appeal to the Ministry of Environment to strengthen law enforcement so suspects who commit forestry crimes are arrested and punished,” he said.

Last week, the Ministry of Environment said more than 50,000 hectares of protected area in Koh Kong’s Peam Krasop and Mondulkiri’s Phnom Prich wildlife sanctuaries were registered as state land in a bid to eliminate land disputes in said areas.

In a statement, they
said the Ministry of Land Management issued 18 land titles to both wildlife sanctuaries. Of these, 10 covered around 4,000 hectares of Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary while eight covered more than 45,000 hectares of Phnom Prich.

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