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Hundreds in court as forest crime persists

May Titthara / Khmer Times Share:
Officials seized about 8,000 cubic metres of wood. Supplied

Police tackled 615 forestry and wildlife crimes in the first half of the year, with 376 cases ending up in court and the remaining 239 leading to administrative fines.

According to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the cases included illegal logging and offences related to the bush meat trade.

The ministry said it confiscated almost 8,000 cubic metres of wood, including 24 cubic metres of rosewood.

Officers also rescued 3,102 animals from captivity and seized a variety of forestry equipment, including 35 chainsaws.

In 18 cases, offenders were charged for cutting down trees on 491 hectares of state land.

The report also said the ministry collected more than $5 million in revenue from public services, fines and the profits of selling confiscated timber in the past six months.

Ouch Leng, environmental activist and president of the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force, said the authorities too often seized evidence in logging crimes but failed to arrest smugglers.

“The amount of revenue they have generated is small in comparison to the business that loggers do with Vietnam and China. The government is failing to take action against the logging trade with Vietnam and China, despite reports from international NGOs about corruption,” he said.

“If they do not do something to stop wood being smuggled to Vietnam and China, Cambodia’s forests will be completely destroyed.”

Earlier this year, a damning report by a UK and US-based NGO alleged that systemic bribery in Cambodia and Vietnam was enabling wood logged in Ratanakkiri’s protected forests to be smuggled over the border.

Between November and March, the Environmental Investigation Agency found 300,000 cubic metres of wood were harvested on an “unprecedented scale” from two national parks and one wildlife sanctuary before being smuggled to Vietnam.

Last year, there were 2,189 cases of forestry and wildlife crimes, with 1,546 ending up in court and 643 cases resulting in fines.

At the time, Environment Minister Say Samal claimed Cambodia had put an end to illegal logging and timber exports to Vietnam.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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