Forestry crimes are still occurring in the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary and the National Park in the Cardamom Mountains in Pursat province, a prominent environment activist said.
Chea Hean, director of the environmental watchdog Anti-Corruption, Natural Resource Protection and Civil Rights Protection (ACNCIPO), alleged that environmental officials do not seem concerned about apprehending perpetrators.
Chea said on March 24 that he was investigating natural resource crimes in the sanctuary and the national park and discovered that crimes were still being committed. He saw a truck transporting timber and machinery in the area, but environmental officials did not arrest anyone.
“From my observation, we could hear a sawmill in the forest when we entered the forest in both the Cardamom mountain conservation and sanctuary areas. Rangers didn’t seem interested in preventing crime. They stayed in the air-conditioned room and said there is no forest crime,” he said.
He said perpetrators concealed timber in many places, but he was not clear how many trees have been cut down and how much forest had been cleared.
“They drop 10, 20 or 30 logs in one place. So we do not know how many cubic metres have been cut down yet, because we are still investigating this. We also don’t know how much deforestation has occurred. I am preparing a map and will submit a report at the end of this survey,” he said.
Chea said when rangers went into the forest no crimes happened, because details of their movements could have been revealed to the criminals. They should quietly patrol the forest if they want to gather evidence.
After collecting enough evidence of crimes, Chea would invite rangers and expert officials to examine the information. He requested that the environment ministry be open to civil society organisations as well as the community, associations, monks and people so that they can participate in preventing natural resources crime.
Provincial environment department director Kong Puthyra declined to comment.
Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said his ministry has always welcomed other partners in the protection and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity in protected areas. But the partners must understand the laws and regulations, he said.
“The first thing we think is about is their safety. This is because the perpetrators also have weapons. That is why it is necessary for them to cooperate with park rangers. Secondly, they are not officially police officers, so if they make an arrest on behalf of the rangers, that is illegal,” he said.