Forest activists continue to claim that Korean-owned Think Biotech Cambodia Co Ltd is involved in illegal deforestation in the Prey Lang area, especially harvesting timber from resin trees, but the authorities say the company is operating legitimately.
A working group of the National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes visited the company last month, but found no evidence of the offences that residents and forest activists have accused them of.
Activist Heng Sros told The Post on Thursday that residents and forest activists had often seen Think Biotech logging the forest and transporting timber out of the Prey Lang region.
He said that especially in the early part of this year, the company had regularly used its staff to threaten residents to sell resin trees.
When residents refused to sell the trees, Sros said, the company secretly logged them anyway and transported them to the company’s premises. This led the residents to file a complaint with the authorities.
“The company uses trucks and machinery to transport timber from the Prey Lang forest community, but the working group found no timber.
“So the inspections seem to have been pre-arranged so the company was clean before the visit,” he claimed.
On August 17, the committee visited the company in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.
A report on the result of the inspections, which was obtained by The Post on Wednesday, said the committee saw 670 logs, but only found three irregularities – allowing five foreigners to work without permits, vehicles without Forestry Administration stickers, and not having the correct documentation following a change of ownership.
The committee ordered the company to correct the mistakes according to law, work with the authorities in preventing forest crimes, and demarcate its boundaries.
Prey Lang Community Network representative Chheang Ly said she could not accept that Think Biotech was not involved in forest crimes, because according to previous reviews, the company had cleared forests beyond its boundary in protected areas.
She also said that some 2,000 resin trees belonging to 30 families in Stung Treng province had been logged by the company.
“Let them [the Committee] go back to the company to check again, see the amount of land it had claimed and whether it had crossed its boundaries,” she said.
Committee spokesman Eng Hy declined to comment and referred questions to the court.
Kratie Provincial Court spokesman Chea Sopheak could not be reached, while provincial deputy prosecutor Thuch Panchak Santepheap declined to comment.
The Post was also unable to contact Kratie provincial Forestry Administration director Nuon Peov Ratana. Provincial Military Police commander San Bun Than only said briefly that Think Biotech was a legitimate company.
The committee’s report on the inspections at the company said its representative Chea Pov claimed that even though the company had been officially granted 34,007ha, it was only managing 25,000ha, with some land handed over to the affected community.