Desperate to cut down on illegal logging, Kampong Thom forestry officials are trying out a new strategy: disarming loggers before they can get to the trees by cracking down on chainsaw dealers and other sellers of equipment used to fell trees.
On Sunday night, the Baray district police raided a shophouse in Kampong Thmor commune.
From the front, the business looked like an average moto repair garage, but in the back, officials discovered hundreds of hidden saws and other logging equipment.
“Those tools were being sold to the illegal loggers of our forest,” said Soth Mary, chief of the provincial forestry administration office.
The owners of the shop disappeared before the court- approved raid, so police were unable to question the sellers or identify the owners of the equipment.
But in the absence of any defence for the hidden hardware, the officials confiscated the whole stock, counting 102 tools, including 25 chainsaws and 52 lines of chain.
Selling chainsaws is not an illegal or punishable offence in the Kingdom, but Mary emphasised that addressing logging through the vendors was a potentially viable way to inhibit the illegal timber trade, adding that similar investigations would soon occur throughout the province.
“If we want to combat illegal logging effectively, we also have to raid the businesses that sell to illegal loggers. This way the loggers will not be able to destroy the forest,” he said.
Nhem Sitha, investigating official of rights group Adhoc in Kampong Thom, agreed that waging a battle against equipment suppliers might lead to more effective results against the logging scourge.
“Everyone can buy and sell chainsaws, but if the selling is related to any illegal offence such as illegal logging, I think that raiding is the right decision,” he said.
According to a Ministry of Agriculture report released earlier this month, more than 1,000 forestry and wildlife offences were intercepted during the first six months of 2014, leading to the seizure of nearly 3,000 cubic metres of timber and more than 1,000 hectares of forest land nationwide.