Local authorities say they are struggling to protect the Mondulkiri Protected Forest and the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary from being logged by villagers in the province’s Koh Nhek and Pech Chreada districts, while villagers accuse authorities of colluding with certain logging groups.
Lung Bung, Mondulkiri Protected Forest director, said yesterday that throughout December, his men seized 23 cubic metres of illegally logged timber, 17 chainsaws and five vehicles. On Sunday, he added, authorities seized some 220 pepper-growing posts cut down in the forest and a vehicle in Koh Nhek district.
Bung maintained that “there are many perpetrators”.
“We lack the forces and means for patrols,” he said, adding that he had only 10 people with which to patrol 300,000 hectares of forest.
According to Bung, forestry crimes in the districts spike dramatically in the early dry season, which he says is the same time a local company buys pepper posts – allegedly illegally logged by villagers – for its plantation.
However, some villagers claimed authorities colluded with certain loggers while targeting others.
“I saw some villagers went into the forest with chainsaws, tractors, huge vehicles, and those vehicles were loaded with timber without any intervention,” said Romas Kil, a Pech Chreada district resident, adding that “if there is no collusion with the authorities, it would be impossible”.