Kampong Speu provincial authorities shut down 10 sawmills temporarily in four villages of Baset district for buying timber and operating without permission on Saturday.

Provincial governor Vei Samnang said on Sunday that the owners of sawmills did not buy wood logged from the forest.

Instead, they bought mango, acacia and other domestic trees to make planks or home construction materials and it is just operated on a family-scale, but the authority demanded them to obtain permission.

“We educated them over the matter and they signed agreements, promising to stop their operation temporarily. They need to ask for permission first,” he said, adding that none of the owners was arrested and their timber and chainsaws were not seized either.

The 10 sawmills are located in Prey Khla and Tram Korng villages, and in Khley Thmey and Trapaing Prey villages in Por Chamroeun commune.

National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes and national Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said he was aware of the issue, but had not obtained a detailed report as yet because local Military Police were working on it.

“Our officials have not made any report for the higher-ranking officials yet. When the work is done, they will send me the report,” Hy said.

Kampong Speu provincial Military Police commander Chou Sarun said they took action on the orders of higher-ranking officials.

Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation director Chea Hean said the offenders never stop their actions when the authorities just educated and forced them to sign an agreement to stop their actions.

They would keep destroying the trees and such low effectiveness of law enforcement, he said, would not reduce forest crimes.

“We have laws and if we follow them seriously, offenders will stop making trouble. But so far some officials are involved in the crime too, so they do not [follow the law] and they are afraid that the offenders will reveal the truth,” Hean alleged.