Minister of Environment Say Sam Al said on Monday that his ministry is working with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to identify whether transported timber is from legal or illegal sources.
Cambodian Youth Party (CYP) president Pich Sros, who is also a member of the Supreme Consultation and Advisory Council (SCAC), questioned Sam Al at an SCAC meeting about ongoing logging, the granting of economic land concessions (ELCs) to private companies and processing clean water.
In response, Sam Al said the ministry is trying to crack down on forest crimes, but it needed cooperation from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to ascertain if the logs are from authorised zones or from illegal areas.
All relevant parties must participate in the prevention of illegal logging, Sam Al said.
He said the government stopped issuing ELCs to private companies in 2010 and, in 2012, reviewed companies that had received ELCs to determine whether they were following the licence’s stipulations.
“If the ministry finds any irregularities, [it] will revoke licences and the companies must face their responsibilities and other legal procedures,” he said.
The ministry is working with companies, Sam Al said, to speed up the establishment of clean water systems before releasing waste liquid into the sea, rivers and lakes.
Laying the blame
However, Sros said government officials are still pointing fingers at each other over the loss of forests.
“I think the [ministry’s] response and [ministries] accusing each other shows there is no clear legal mechanism. I met with the Ministry of Interior’s secretary of state who said it was difficult to prevent [illegal logging]."
“[He said taking action] might violate the authority of the Ministry of Environment, but I asked the [ministry], and it said the Ministry of Agriculture is in charge of [timber] identification and reviewing licences. I said their response was an excuse, aiming to avoid taking any responsibility,” Sros said.
Separately, the Ministry of Environment plans to establish a patrol station in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary – near the junction between Kampong Thom, Kratie and Stung Treng provinces – to effectively prevent crime and easily implement legal procedures to protect natural sources in the region.
Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post on Monday that on Saturday, there was a meeting in Kampong Thom province to discuss better and more efficient management of the wildlife sanctuary. The gathering was attended by more than 100 officers and community members.
Pheaktra said building the new station would see an increase in the number of patrols and result in more efficient law enforcement. The team is looking for the best location to establish it.
“We have not determined the budget or the size yet, but the ministry’s working team and four provincial officials are talking about it,” he said.
Ministry secretary of state Sao Sopheap, who led the meeting, could not be reached for comment.
However, he told a local media outlet that the ministry has prepared a plan to preserve forests in the Kampong Thom, Kratie and Stung Treng triangle area, and a new station will be constructed to help the joint task force of the three provincial task forces.
Sopheap said the proposal was made after a conference – organised by the ministry and titled Joint Thinking, Joint Action, Preventing Crimes Together – was held on Friday in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary and where environmental experts from Kampong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear provinces participated.
After the meeting, Sopheap, community members, relevant NGOs and authorities from the four provinces visited the area to identify the best location to prevent environmental crimes in the sanctuary.