The Environment Ministry rangers and relevant authorities clamped down on about 400 cases of natural resources crime with the arrest of about 100 offenders in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary for the first four months of this year.
Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said yesterday the rangers along with members of local community and relevant authorities carried out 511 patrols to protect and conserve natural resources in Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom and Kratie provinces in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary which covers over 430,000 hectares of forest.
“The working team has found 399 cases of illegal logging, forest land encroachment, and poaching,” Mr Pheaktra said, adding that 32 cases of illegal logging and forest land encroachment were sent to the court.
He said that 42 cases, including 100 people were educated and asked to sign contracts. Mr Pheaktra said rangers and local villagers also confiscated scores of evidence, including 193 chainsaws, two cars, 34 two-wheeled tractors, 25 motorcycles, 179 cubic metres of timber and 165 planks.
He said rangers also removed and destroyed 34 illegally built shelters, while 29 home-made guns for hunting wild animals and 724 traps were seized.
Hoeun Sopheap, Prey Lang Community Network’s representative in Kampong Thom province, hailed the ministry’s forestry crackdowns in Prey Lang area.
“If the ministry continues to crack down on it, I think that forestry crimes will decline,” he said.
Mr Sopheap said law enforcement should be stricter and hefty fines should be imposed against forestry crime perpetrators or else crimes will be repeated by the same offenders.
“The ministry should also set up an independent, transparent, and fair task force, with the participation of relevant community and civil society organisations to investigate crimes in the protected areas without having to inform local authorities in advance,” he said. “If we inform the local authorities prior to the crackdown, crimes may not be found,” he added.
According to the ministry, relevant ministries and institutions have currently cooperated to implement the Greening Prey Lang Project with more than $21 million funded by USAID from 2018 to 2023.
The project aims to strengthen the protection and preservation of natural resources and biodiversity by focusing on determining and dividing management areas, demarcation, management planning, and registration of state land.