Two men were charged and placed in pre-trial detention on Saturday for allegedly clearing nearly 2 hectares of forest within the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, Mondulkiri provincial court spokesman Sou Sovichea said yesterday.
The two men – Peas Mith, 40, and Tul Nith, 20 – were caught in the act by rangers on Friday in Sre Preah commune, he added, with several others managing to escape at the scene.
The duo has been charged with “clearing forest for illegal possession” under Article 62 of the Environmental Protection and Resource Management Law, according to provincial environment department director Keo Sopheak.
“[Some men] cleared the forest and attempted to sell it, but patrolling rangers saw and arrested two of them. Several managed to escape,” he said.
Two chainsaws were confiscated along with machetes, hoes and a motorbike.Sopheak added that the men had covertly built four camps in the forest to facilitate clearing, which have since been dismantled by the authorities.
Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, created in May 2016, covers 292,690 hectares across Mondulkiri and Kratie provinces.
There have been numerous allegations of illegal logging in the protected area. Last week, the environment department discovered 50 hectares of forest at the sanctuary that were allegedly cleared by Yun Saroum, director of Mondulkiri’s rural development department.
According to the environment department’s Sopheak, the case has been sent to court, but court spokesman Sou Sovichea said Saroum has not been charged, as environment experts and relevant authorities have yet to complete their investigations.