Another five people were arrested and five tractors seized in Preah Vihear province’s Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary late last week, but all were subsequently released after being educated and ordered to pay fines, an environmental ranger said on Sunday.
Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary director Bun Soeung told The Post that on Thursday and Friday, his environmental rangers patrolled the forest in collaboration with villagers from Chheb district’s Chheb and M’lou Prey communes.
He said his team detained five offenders and impounded five tractors and 3.5 cubic meters of illegally logged wooden planks. All five were reprimanded and ordered to pay fines in accordance with the law, Soeung said.
“On Saturday, the five were released along with their five tractors after each of them was reprimanded and ordered to pay three million riel [$736].
“About 3.5 cubic metres of phdiek [Anisoptera scaphula] and chheuteal [Dipterocarpus alatus] was confiscated as state property and is being kept at an environmental station,” he said.
Soeung said that on June 7-9, his team had apprehended six other offenders and confiscated six rice tractors, five chainsaws and about four cubic metres of timber.
He said in that case too, environmental rangers had educated the culprits, fined each of them three million riel and impounded the chainsaws and timber as state property.
“In total during June, the environmental rangers and the Prey Preah Roka community confiscated 11 tractors, five chainsaws, 7.5 cubic metres of timber, and issued 33 million riel in fines to the offenders,” Soeung said.
Sun Pov, a Prey Preah Roka villager who was part of the patrol team with the environmental rangers, said most of the loggers came from Kampong Thom province and used water buffalo carts, tractors and home-made cars.
He said the offenders usually said they needed the timber to get money to feed their families. They are paid 50,000 riel for each water buffalo cart and 100,000 to 200,000 riel per tractor or home-made car per trip, Pov said.
“According to their accounts, most of the timber traders are soldiers who hire the villagers from different provinces. The offenders are divided into two groups – the cutting down group and the transporting group,” he said.
The Prey Preah Roka forest covers some 96,000ha in Preah Vihear province’s Chheb, Choam Ksan and Tbeng Meanchey districts.
The Kuoy indigenous ethnic group lives in the forest and acts to protect and preserve the area from illegal loggers and other crimes.
In May 2016, the government, through the Ministry of Environment, incorporated the site as a protected area which became known as Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary.