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Forest activism ‘just a cover’

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Ministry secretary of state and spokesperson Neth Pheaktra. Hean Rangsey

Forest activism ‘just a cover’

The Ministry of Environment has warned of legal action against non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and associations which it said had used environmental activism as a cover to attack the government.

In a letter dated April 24, it said some unregistered NGOs are also carrying out activities in protected natural areas under its jurisdiction without notifying it.

“For NGOs or associations that continue their activities in an anarchic and illegal manner in natural resource areas, the Ministry of Environment will be left with no choice but to take legal measures, especially under the Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management.

“The ministry requests all relevant authorities to help monitor their activities and take legal action against any NGOs or associations that defy the law,” the statement said.

Ministry secretary of state and spokesperson Neth Pheaktra told The Post on Sunday that some NGOs, associations and individuals had disguised themselves as environment officials or rangers to extort money from people and for other puposes.

He said some unregistered NGOs and associations had carried out activities without notifying the ministry.

“Their activities are anarchic and politically motivated. Actually, they are not doing anything to protect natural resources. If they continue, the ministry will take action,” he said.

In its letter, the ministry said NGOs and associations are encouraged to join the government in natural resource protection as long as they abided by the law.

“Registered NGOs or associations are welcome to participate in protecting and conserving natural resources, biodiversity, ecosystem, and raising the living standards of communities within and near-natural resource areas, but they must follow the law,” it said.

Cheang Ly, a Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) member and community representative in Stung Treng province, acknowledged that some individuals had presented themselves as forest rangers to extort money from residents who transport timber on homemade trucks or boats in local communities.

“They impersonated forest rangers. I’ve received a report that they demanded 100,000 riel [$25] per home-made truck.

They are not from the PLCN working group, but use our name to extort money from residents,” she said.

The ministry said it currently manages protected natural areas and biodiversity corridors in 60 locations totalling 7.2 million hectares, equivalent to 41 per cent of Cambodia’s landmass.

It said 1,260 forest rangers are stationed around the clock in each area in collaboration with the local authorities, NGOs, associations and local communities.

Last week, the ministry also warned of legal action against PLCN and several other organisations if they continued to collect deforestation data.

The warning came after PLCN suggested a new programme that would use satellite imagery to monitor and collect information on forest clearance in Prey Lang after the ministry banned the group from patrolling it.

Pheaktra said the community network was being exploited for political purposes.

The Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary was established in May 2016 and covers 431,683ha across Stung Treng, Kratie, Kampong Thom, and Preah Vihear provinces.

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