TROOPS of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces are following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s January directive to crack down on unauthorised logging and other illegal businesses operated by government officials, Chea Dara, RCAF deputy commander-in-chief, said Sunday, citing several recently completed operations.
While several seizures this month near the Thai-Cambodian border have yielded large quantities of luxury timber, Chea Dara said the crackdown was ongoing.
“We are still hunting for the stubborn high-ranking officials involved in illegal logging in response to the prime minister’s order,” Chea Dara said.
Last Tuesday, Chea Dara said, RCAF troops seized seven luxury SUVs carrying timber from Preah Vihear province to Phnom Penh. On Friday, he added, RCAF troops seized about 400 cubic metres of timber in Oddar Meanchey province’s Trapaing Prasat district.
Though he could not provide precise figures, Chea Dara said the operations heralded new vigilance against illegal logging on the part of the military.
“In these two operations, we have arrested some offenders and confiscated 13 modern cars and many cubic metres of timber,” Chea Dara said, adding that an additional large-scale operation was progressing in Trapaing Prasat.
In January, Hun Sen told an audience of military commanders that he would no longer tolerate illegal logging and other crimes perpetrated by high-ranking officials.
“It is time to stop every activity involving illegal business or the support of illegal business. [I] don’t care how many stars or moons you have – I will fire you,” Hun Sen said.
Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for local rights group Adhoc, praised the anti-logging effort, but said it was long overdue.
“Chea Dara’s operations should have been done long ago – they should not wait until there is an order from the prime minister,” Chan Soveth said. “These operations must be done continually.”