Forestry officials have confiscated 633 illegal machines this year, saying they are being used to clear protected land
Chainsaws confiscated from Bokor National Park, now in FA storage.
AGRICULTURE officials have reissued a nationwide warning that all unlicensed chainsaws will be confiscated from private owners and traders, after confiscating 633 illegal chainsaws from loggers so far in 2008.
Khem Chenda, director of the Department of Administration in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the government had suppressed 506 illegal logging operations this year and would confiscate unlicensed machines in order to protect Cambodia's forests.
But rural villagers who have lost chainsaws and other logging equipment are calling on the government to pay back the cost of the confiscated items.
Touch Satheang, chief of Boeung Tuk commune in Kampot province, said the Forestry Administration (FA) should pay these families in cash because they bought machines for personal use on their own land.
"The government should not just confiscate chainsaws from the people," he said. "They should confiscate them from all the markets nationwide and ban the import of logging equipment into our country."
Chheng Saveoun, a carpenter in Kampot's Trapaing Klaing commune, said that he bought a chainsaw from the market last year for use in his business, but that the FA confiscated it without compensation.
"I think that it is an injustice to me because I paid $300 for that chainsaw," Saveoun said.
But Khem Chenda told the Post that most of the illegal forestry taking place was by people that did not understand the law, adding that machines were still being used to cut natural forest in order to clear land for personal farming.
Owning a chainsaw without a permit issued by the FA became illegal in late 2006, and authorities have since confiscated 2,916 chainsaws, all of which are currently held in state warehouse storage, according to Ty Sokhun, director of the Department of Forestry Administration.
Earlier this year, chainsaw manufacturer STIHL uncovered a flourishing trade in fake chainsaws after being accused by a local NGO of allowing the illegal distribution of their product within the country.
Winfried Weida, STIHL senior export manager for the Asia-Pacific region, said via email that "forged and falsely declared" chainsaw parts were being smuggled across the border piece by piece and assembled within Cambodia.
"When we tested some of these fake products at the factory, they showed very serious defects of various components, including the chain brake mechanism," Weida said.
He added that these poor-quality products - costing between $200 and $800 in Cambodia - were being sold as originals for inflated prices in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Weida said STIHL had offered assistance to Cambodian authorities in April to train customs officers to identify chainsaw components and confiscate them at the border, but said that as of Tuesday, Cambodian authorities had not taken up the offer.
Meanwhile, illegal chainsaws continue to flow across Cambodian borders.
Chey Yutherith, chief of conservation at Bokor National Park, said that this year FA and the conservation environment in Kampot province have confiscated 149 chainsaws from 12 communes. In the last three weeks, an additional 76 chainsaws have been confiscated from Kampot and are now in FA storage.
"One-hundred-forty-six additional families within Kampot province have agreed to bring their chainsaws to our authorities at a later date," he said.
Within the park itself, Chey Yutherith said they have handled around 20 cases of illegal logging this year, confiscating and destroying 188 chainsaws and four sawmill machines from deep within the forest, but that the perpetrators all escaped.
"We all want to protect our forest for our children in the future, so we need to ban the illegal forestry and destroy illegal chainsaws," he said.