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Authorities summon forest patrol evidence

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Villagers take a break during an organised patrol of Prey Lang forest last week. Photograph: supplied

Authorities in Kampong Thom province have made good on their promise to examine evidence of illegal logging unearthed by community investigators in the greater Prey Lang area, summoning seven representatives yesterday to present their findings.

The Prey Lang Community Network representatives were summoned to Sandan district hall to shed light on illegal logging in the Prey Sraong forest after organising a three-day, 70-person expedition to catch government officials, military police and companies.

Afterward, deputy Kampong Thom provincial governor Uth Sam Orn vowed to take urgent action if precise information about the location of logging was presented, and representative Roeun Sopheap said yesterday he was happy to oblige.

“I told them that it [the information] is completely authentic and [we] gave the name and the identity of the informer to the deputy provincial governor. I was told that there will be further investigation into this case,” he said. “The residents are happy to co-operate with the authorities and vice versa in order to combat crimes.”

Sopheap added he did not understand what authorities planned to do with the information handed over but that officials had asked them for further collaboration.

Sandan District Governor Sim Vanna said workshops would be conducted with residents and authorities to discuss preventative strategies to stop future forest crimes.

“The crime took place in the middle of Prey Sraong, but the mastermind wasn’t found. The authorities were uninvolved in any forestry crime in Prey Lang,” he said.

Prey Lang forest, a hotbed of activist resistance to logging, has no clear boundary, though the greater Prey Lang area is estimated to cover about 350,000 hectares of Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.

The Prey Lang community patrol team claims to have uncovered five illegally established plantations of 20 to 30 hectares in size and 500 hectares of cleared forest.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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