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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Preah Vihear blaze razes timber

Nearly 4,000 cubic metres of timber burn in Preah Vihear province on Saturday in a blaze that authorities attributed to a forest fire, though the company that owns the timber suspects arson. Photo supplied
Nearly 4,000 cubic metres of timber burn in Preah Vihear province on Saturday in a blaze that authorities attributed to a forest fire, though the company that owns the timber suspects arson. Photo supplied

Preah Vihear blaze razes timber

A blaze authorities have attributed to a forest fire ripped through a nearly 4,000-cubic-metre timber stockpile on a social land concession in Preah Vihear’s Kulen district on the weekend, although the company yesterday said it suspected a case of arson.

Si Kiri, Preah Vihear provincial police chief, said that the forest fire spread to the timber stockpiles of Green Country JSC Co on Friday evening. However, it was not until 9am on Saturday that the company requested help from the authorities, by which time the blaze was out of control.

“The wood stocks are surrounded by forest; pieces of fire flew onto the dry wood and a fire happened there,” Kiri said.

Two fire engines were dispatched to quell the flames, which required 21 truckloads of water. No injuries were reported. “It was so strong a blaze, it looked like it was a petrol fire,” Kiri said.

According to Green Country general manager Neak Tha yesterday, nearly 3,800 cubic metres of timber were destroyed, amounting to a $300,000 loss in already paid taxes on top of the value of the timber itself, which has a production cost of $30 to $50 per cubic metre.

“Now some timber is still on fire. The fire consumed about 85 per cent of the total timber of my company,” he said.

The 5,000-hectare concession originally belonged to a company named Doung Srouch, but changed hands in 2015 because the company did not pay due taxes, Tha continued, maintaining that his company paid the taxes to the state already.

Yesterday, Tha said his company filed a complaint with the police over the fire, alleging that it may have been caused by illegal loggers, including soldiers, who would often trespass on the company land resulting in confrontations with his employees.

“This is a mystery that the authorities are working on, but I could tell you all about it,” he said.

“It is an irregularity,” Tha continued. “The timber was first on fire in the evening and several workers put it out, and it started again at 12 at night. It was not a forest fire . . . It must be someone threw the fire on it.”

The concession is managed by the Forestry Administration, according to Lanh Lysiengleng, Kulen district police chief, who also maintained the blaze was “caused by forest fire”, remarking that the woodpiles were “old”.

Lysiengleng went on to suggest that careless farmers engaging in slash and burn practices nearby could be a likely cause. Kiri, the provincial police chief, said yesterday he had not yet received a report from the Forestry Administration on the fire.

Ith Phumera, Preah Vihear Provincial Forestry Administration director, declined to comment.

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