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Activists allege forest clearing in Mondulkiri wildlife sanctuary

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
About 20 community group members spotted loggers clearing about 100ha with bulldozers in Nam Lear Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo supplied

Activists allege forest clearing in Mondulkiri wildlife sanctuary

Environment officials are set to probe an alleged land clearing matter in Mondulkiri province after the local community reported they had found loggers bulldozing forest in the main area of the Nam Lear Wildlife Sanctuary.

Bunong ethnic activist Kroeung Tola told The Post on Monday that on Saturday, about 20 community group members spotted loggers clearing about 100ha with bulldozers in the sanctuary in O’Raing district’s Dak Dam commune.

“The area that has been bulldozed is home to many gigantic trees, wild animals and some of the rarest plants in the world.

“The bulldozing activity has been going on for a week already. Residents could not use GPS, so we don’t know whether the land belongs to the state or a private company,” he said.

Citing a supervisor for a private company, Tola alleged that the group was bulldozing the forest for Mega First Corp Bhd. He said without elaborating that the company received a 9,000ha concession in 2014, but that only 6,000ha remained.

Tola said granting land concessions to private companies run counter to a directive issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who ordered an end to the practice in 2012.

He said he dared not report the matter to Nam Lear Wildlife Sanctuary director Vuth Sarom after having been warned of legal action over a similar matter.

The activist said he had instead reported the matter to Hun Sen and Minister of Environment Say Sam Al through Facebook.

“There were three bulldozers clearing the forest with Military Police officers and soldiers [protecting] them,” he claimed.

The Post could not reach any Mega First Corp representatives for comment on Monday.

Dak Dam commune chief Chas Na said he was not aware of the matter, but claimed the Nam Lear Wildlife Sanctuary is not located in his commune.

Before declining further comment, he said the bulldozers may have been used to construct a road in the area.

But O’Raing district governor Siek Mony confirmed to The Post that there was no plan to build a road in the sanctuary and that a road could only be built within the company’s land concession area.

Mony said the company had received the land concession before Hun Sen’s 2012 directive was issued, but did not start any activity there until 2014.

“It [Mega First Corp] received the concession long ago. He [Tola] is not fully aware of the matter but kept shooting his mouth off. They dare not violate the law because it’s not only Tola who is monitoring but many other organisations that are also observing it,” he said.

Provincial environment department director Keo Sopheak said he would look into the matter.

“On Tuesday, I will send my officials to find out whether the alleged bulldozing and logging are taking place in the Nam Lear Wildlife Sanctuary or on the company’s land,” he said.

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