An NGO operating in the Pursat section of the protected Cardamom Mountains uncovered 50 cubic metres of luxury timber yesterday.
Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, said he and four colleagues uncovered the illicit stash as part of an ongoing investigation, the results of which he promised to turn over to the Environment Ministry next week.
“That timber belongs to prominent traders, but they use the [local] people as a cover,” Hean said, going on to allege that environmental protection officials play a role in the practice too.
Provincial environment department director Pan Morodok said he had heard such allegations before, but considered them “groundless”.
Hean’s discovery came on the heels of the Monday declaration by Prime Minister Hun Sen that Forestry and Fisheries Administration employees will be transferred to provincial departments of agriculture. Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon followed up with a letter instructing the relevant departments to begin preparations for the transfer.
The director of the ministry’s human resources department, Ty Channa, said yesterday he was busy making arrangements for the transfer, which he hoped would enhance effectiveness.
Marcus Hardtke, who has two decades’ experience with Cambodian conservation issues, feared accountability would suffer. “If it all comes down to the provincial governor . . . [then] Hun Sen needs to keep an eye on the governors, and he can only do that by cooperating with civil society, because they’re his only source of information”.
Additional reporting by Jack Davies