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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Illegal logs set ablaze in wildlife sanctuary

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Environmental officials inspect a site where traders illegally set fire to 300 logs of luxury timber in Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakkiri province. Photo supplied

Illegal logs set ablaze in wildlife sanctuary

Environment Ministry officials in Ratanakkiri province are hunting for timber traders who on Sunday set ablaze 300 logs of luxury wood in Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary, one of several protected areas raided by Vietnamese loggers in recent months.

Eng Phakdey, chief of the O’Lvak outpost inside the sanctuary, said the traders burned the logs in an apparent effort to destroy evidence after the wood was discovered in an area known as O’Khan Loeung in Chey Odom commune by villagers, who then tipped off authorities.

“Maybe the traders knew that we would go there so they burned it down before our force arrived,” Phakdey said. “We did not see anyone there or we would have made an arrest.”

The Post reported yesterday evidence of large-scale logging in Ratanakkiri province on behalf of Vietnamese timber traders, including in Lumphat district.

Activists monitoring the trade say they have tracked convoys of trucks hauling illegally felled timber across unofficial border crossings, as part of a “systematic” raid on the Kingdom’s eastern forests.

Environment Minister Say Sam Al, however, has claimed the operations were locally run and “small and scattered”.

Phakdey said the timber found on Sunday, a valuable species called thnong, was likely sourced from nearby Koh Nhek district in Mondulkiri province, as that type of tree could no longer be found in the sanctuary.

Thing Chet, chief of patrol stations in Lumphat, said only 30 percent of the logs were destroyed as rangers managed to contain the blaze.

Provincial Department of Environment Director Phon Khemerin said the suspects, if found, would face charges of timber trading and destroying evidence.

Khemerin declined to name any suspects, though local media outlets identified the Vietnamese trader as “Hiv” and his Cambodian associate as “Mr Phorn”.

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