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Wildlife sanctuary ‘illegally logged’

Lumber found by local villagers was allegedly felled inside the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakkiri
Lumber found by local villages was allegedly felled inside the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakkiri province last week. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Wildlife sanctuary ‘illegally logged’

An investigation in Ratanakkiri province has uncovered thousands of pieces of luxury wood – allegedly felled inside the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary – stockpiled in warehouses of economic land title holders.

Acting on a complaint filed by 124 families on November 13, rights group Adhoc and some 20 villagers found Agrico Co Ltd and Hoang Anh Lumphat – part of a family of companies repeatedly accused of illegal logging – had been harvesting Thnong and Neang Nuon wood within the sanctuary and exporting it by boat, said Adhoc coordinator Chhay Thy.

“The Thnong wood is logged and transported from the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary illegally, with the complicity and protection of environmental officers in Lumphat. They have stocked the wood for export, and we saw eight chainsaws in Daun Penh Company as well,” Thy said.

Even more wood was found in the Srepok River in Lumphat’s Chey Uddom commune, where workers were moving the logs by boat, he added.

“The workers said the hundreds of pieces of Thnong wood belonged to Try Pheap, and that the wood was being carried to cars for transportation,” Thy said.

Hoang Anh Gia Lai – Hoang Anh Lumphat’s parent company – was accused in a scathing Global Witness report earlier this year of possessing nearly five times the legal amount of economic land concessions, and of contracting the controversial Pheap to clear and process the timber.

Commune chief Chim Theak seconded Adhoc’s findings, confirming that logging took place in Lumphat, adding that wildlife officers at the sanctuary had gone so far as to bar police from entering.

“They have been logging since 2012 without anyone stopping them,” Theak said. “We suspect that the company is conspiring with the sanctuary officers so they can log.”

However, Lumphat District Governor Kong Srun maintained that the companies had not logged outside of the bounds of their concessions.

“I have already seen it. It was logged in the company’s land, not in the wildlife sanctuary, because the company has received a concession from the state,” Srun said.

Adhoc says it will continue to investigate the case.