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Officials hail success of logging crackdown

THE enforcement of forestry laws improved in the early part of 2010, according to officials at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Forestry Administration, following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent warning that military officers should not engage in timber trafficking.

Tim Sipha, director of the Department of Legislation and Enforcement at the Forestry Administration, said that officials have recorded 231 cases of illegal logging and confiscated 510 cubic metres of timber so far this year. In the whole of 2009, the administration recorded 675 instances of illegal logging and seized 2,622 cubic metres of illicit timber.

Tim Sipha said that following a serious warning from the prime minister late last month and a concerted crackdown by local officials, he observed that illegal logging seemed to decrease. “We noticed that military officers who had been involved in illegal logging began to cease their actions, and illegal logging also began to decrease,” he said.

“We will continue to carry out the prime minister’s order and to strengthen law enforcement in order to reduce illegal logging.”

At an annual meeting of military officials on January 28, Hun Sen warned his audience that officers should stop cutting down trees and backing illegal loggers and land grabbers.

“Stop immediately all involvement with illegal businesses and do not back illegal businessmen. I will show no mercy,” he said. “I have a five-star rank, but I will even fire somebody with the rank of a moon or a sun.”

Pen Bonna, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said deforestation in the province seemed to be on the decrease, but that thousands of cubic metres of timber left over from previous illegal logging operations were being prepared for export to Vietnam despite the recent local crackdowns.

Chan Soveth, an Adhoc investigator, called on the authorities to impose “severe punishments” on those caught profiting illegally from Cambodia’s forests. “The deforestation committed by powerful and rich people will lead to the complete loss of Cambodia’s forest,” he said.

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