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PM urges crackdown on illegal timber trade

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday ordered his subordinates to crack down on illegal logging and issued a warning to companies engaging in nefarious forestry practices to clean up their act.

Speaking at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Hun Sen reiterated that illegal logging is a major problem, citing certain companies’ habit of abusing their economic land concessions (ELCs) and felling forests by the truckload.

“[The authorities] need to examine all ELCs. Taking back forest from those who destroy it is not enough,” he said.

“We have to arrest [people] and order them to pay back for their logging.”

He added that timber companies who engage in the illicit timber trade should be prosecuted, instructing government officials to not let them “get away with it”.

Agriculture Minister Ouk Rabun said that his ministry has been working to address the situation, and will “promote the implementation of land and forest management reforms”.

Executive director of the NGO Forum Tek Vannara supported the premier’s warning, saying it was time local officials started clamping down on illegal logging for the sake of the poor.

“Strict law enforcement must ensure that natural resources are [harvested] sustainably and managed better,” he said.

Last year, the ministry revoked ELCs from eight companies that breached their contracts, accounting for more than 170,000 hectares of land. The Ministry of Environment, meanwhile, stripped 23 companies of ELCs, covering 100,000 hectares.

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