Activists in Prey Lang forest yesterday began their second round of patrols this year, with 500 members of the Prey Lang Community Network setting out on a five-day campaign to prevent forest crimes.
Armed with about 200 motorbikes, teams made up of community representatives from four provinces surrounding Prey Lang – Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces – will descend on the forest in an attempt to halt illegal logging, which has reportedly increased since the election in July.
Seng Sok Heng, a coordinator for the activists, said the patrols had been organised in direct response to reports of increased logging since the election period.
“Deforestation not only destroys forests but adversely affects the people’s occupation and livelihood around the areas because their living depends on byproducts,” he said.
In Kratie province, the activists said plantation firm Sueng Biotec had encroached 30 kilometres into Prey Lang, logging some 100 cubic metres of timber.
“We are considering with the communities . . . what to do with the timber,” Heng said.
Tycoon Try Pheap transported thousands of cubic metres of luxury wood daily in Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom provinces in a systematic program of deforestation with the complicity of the local authorities, he added.
However, in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces the forest had been cut chaotically while the authorities looked on.
“Deforestation occurred at an alarming rate because the authorities have not taken stringent measures to eliminate those activities, but rather they work together,” Heng said.
The patrol also met with timber buyers and sellers yesterday and asked them to sign a pledge to stop deforestation, said Svay Pheoun, a community representative in Preah Vihear.
“We did not abuse them, because they do not destroy [the forest] on a large scale like those gigantic companies. We just took their pictures and reported it to the governor for legal action” he said.
Ut Sam Orn, Kampong Thom provincial governor, declined to comment, while Kratie Governor Sar Chamrong could not be reached.