Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina has called on all stakeholders, particularly the working group responsible for implementing the "Community Action for Sustainable Forest" project, to strengthen their collaboration in combating deforestation, illegal occupation of state forest land and other related crimes more effectively.

The plea came during a meeting held at the ministry on July 28 to discuss the progress of the project.

Tina said the project's objective is to bolster sustainable community forest management. It is designed to improve living standards and provide essential ecosystem services to local communities. The four-year project, implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, will aid approximately 86,000 smallholding farmers across four target provinces.

The minister also urged the working group to keep their goals and action plans in sharp focus, emphasising the need for ongoing involvement in, and nurturing of, the forest. 

His vision includes fostering a mutually beneficial strategic position to empower the forest community. He believes it is key to self-managing and conserving the forest, improving livelihoods and making them more sustainable.

"The forestry task calls for robust participation and cooperation in preventing deforestation, illegal encroachments on state forest land and other forestry crimes," he said, while also underscoring the importance of diligent attention to technical and political matters and robust law enforcement.

Soeng Sen Karuna, a spokesperson for rights group ADHOC, supported the call. He shared his observation that the effectiveness, clarity and precision of cooperation among relevant institutions for forest protection and land encroachment prevention have been somewhat lacking.

"Relevant institutions should enhance the control of this work by checking on local authorities and implementation officers. This is to ensure they're performing their duties properly, without any illegal conspiration to log the forest or unlawfully encroach on state land for personal benefit. Also, educating local people is of utmost importance,” he said.