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Cambodia loses 50,000ha of forest cover, watchdog claims

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Freshly felled trees found in Prey Lang last year. Global Initiative

Cambodia loses 50,000ha of forest cover, watchdog claims

Cambodia had lost more than 50,000ha of forest cover in Prey Lang and Preah Rokar-Chheb wildlife sanctuaries over an 18-year period, according to an environmental watchdog.

In its issued 40-page report, Rings of illegality in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, released on March 31, the Global Against Transnational Organised Crime claimed that Cambodia’s so-called protected areas have been severely damaged, despite supposedly being safeguarded under the law.

Cambodia, the report said, has suffered some of the highest rates of deforestation than any other country since the 1970s. The rate has also been significantly increasing in recent decades.

The report also cited another report, The Global Forest Watch, which has estimated that between 2001 and 2018, the country had lost 557,000ha of forest cover in protected areas, representing 11.7 per cent lose of coverage.

Forest cover loss was discovered by a study and investigation on deforestation in Prey Lang and Prey Preah Roka wildlife sanctuaries in the country’s north. They also researched some companies including Think Biotech Co, Ltd and Angkor Plywood; Sam Oeun Sovann Co, Ltd; PNT Co, Ltd; and Thy Nga Development Co, Ltd.

“Some protected areas have been almost completely deforested. The areas are mostly outside the royal decree areas. However, this loss is detrimental to the conservation of biodiversity, economy and society for the forest-dependent indigenous peoples,” the report stated.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said on April 1 that the ministry had no need to comment on a third-party report.

But he said: “The environment ministry continues to strengthen law enforcement and implement action plans in collaboration with partner organisations and protected area communities to protect and conserve Cambodia’s natural resources, forests and wildlife.”

Pheaktra said in February that some NGOs had organised malicious campaigns and issued subversive statements against the government regarding natural resource management and conservation.

“It is an insult on park ranger’s sacrifice and communities in protected areas who are protecting natural resources,” Neth Pheaktra said, acknowledging that natural resource crimes still happen, even in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, but on a small scale.

Preah Vihear provincial Department of Environment director Song Chan Socheat also declined to comment.

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