A senior environment official rejected a report by the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) in Preah Vihear province claiming that it had found 73 forest offences in four days of investigating and monitoring the area in Chey Sen district.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra deemed the PLCN’s actions unlawful and dismissed the report as false.

In their report, the group claimed that on January 12-15, a total of 33 PLCN members investigated and monitored the Prey Lang area in Thmea and Reabroy communes. During their four-day mission, they said they found 55 logged tree stumps and nine cubic metres of sawed timber.

They said they had found sawed timber from trees such as koki, trach, teak, phcheok, chheuteal and chhlik.

In addition to finding eight offenders actively sawing and transporting the timber, they said they spotted two homemade trucks and three jerry cans of diesel and gasoline. The patrolling team had also found other materials used to log trees there.

A member of the PLCN, Srey They, told The Post on January 16 that members of the PLCN had patrolled parts of Bos Raing, Kbal Thlan, Prey Damnak Kal and Phnom Sralao villages in Thmea and Reabroy communes.

He claimed that after spotting the offenders, the PLCN had reported their crimes to the relevant authorities for further legal action, requesting that officials make more efforts to prevent such offences.

“We really see many forest offences, but I reported the cases to environmental officials for them to come and inspect and investigate them. We don’t know whether they will go or not, because I rarely see any environment officials arrive at the locations where forest destruction takes place. I reported and marked the locations, but they say they have never seen them,” he said.

Pheaktra said on January 16 that he regarded the activity of monitoring the situation there as breaking the law to make a false report that distorts the facts.

He reiterated that large-scale natural resource offences no longer occur, though small-scale ones persist.

He said the ministry and relevant institutions and partner organisations are continuing to implement the necessary measures to ease pressure on natural resources. The ministry is continuing to implement the law and economic measures to give protected area communities job options. He said they had urged them to raise animals and grow vegetables to strengthen food security and export them.

“There is no need for us to respond to any of the reports of political activists who disguise themselves as environmental forest defenders. Because if they do not try to violate the law and secretly compile the data and the reports of this forest case, they will have no jobs and no income from their foreign donors,” he emphasised.

According to the ministry, in the past year officers cracked down on 5,376 cases of logging and seized 1,000 cubic metres of timber, along with 2,100 chainsaws.

Pheaktra said the ministry strives to prevent natural resource offences.

“We and other relevant institutions have made efforts to protect and conserve natural resources. The political activists in disguise in these communities should feel ashamed, because ... they continue to conduct activities that are against the law to make false reports and distort the facts in order to receive aid money,” he stated.