Forest activists from the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) in Preah Vihear province claim that Macle Logistics Cambodia Co Ltd and PNT Co Ltd are working together to illegally collect timber being logged in the core area of the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Preah Vihear Department of Environment issued a statement saying that they are investigating the allegations.

Srey Thei, PLCN coordinator in Preah Vihear province, told The Post that when PLCN members had gone on patrol looking for evidence of forest and wildlife crimes recently, they witnessed over sixty people engaged in the logging and transport of timber from the core area of Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary.

They allege that one of the people responsible is a member of the National Military Police named Chap Saron and that two police officials from Chrach commune were implicated as well because, between them, they served as chiefs of staff and security chief for the two companies carrying out the deforestation.

“We suspect that the people we saw were hired by the two companies to do the logging and they then collected the timber from them,” said Thei.

Thei said that the perpetrators were cutting down many “luxury” tree species, some of which had a diameter of 0.4m to 1.1m before they were cut into timber and that the activity was taking place at several locations in the sanctuary.

“The timber that they illegally cut from the core area of the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary was transported by dozens of tractors and trucks and then delivered to the economic land concession area of PNT Co Ltd in order to fraudulently convert it into legal timber to be transported for resale in various timber depots across the country,” he said.

According to public records, PNT Co Ltd was granted a licence by the government to use a 7,900-hectare concession of land in Reabroy commune of Preah Vihear province’s Rovieng district and the company then transferred the licence to Macle Logistics Cambodia Co Ltd in order for the two companies to work together to collect non-timber forest products within that concession area.

Preah Vihear Department of Environment deputy director Meas Nhem admitted that it was probable that criminal deforestation was taking place in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary area and that recently he led a group of forest rangers on patrol covertly and they found six newly cut logs.

However, he said he did not believe that the problem is as big as the PLCN is claiming.

“We acknowledge that there are cases of logging in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, but not as many as [they] claim,” he said.

Nhem said his team had found some clues that indicate that the logging activity in Prey Lang was related to certain companies that received the right to harvest non-timber forest products from a concession-granted company in that area.

He said that his working group is investigating to find out the truth in order to arrest the perpetrators and take them to court to be prosecuted.

Chap Saron, the military police officer PLCN claims is involved in the logging scheme, could not be reached for comment regarding the allegation.

However, Soy Sophal, director of Macle Logistics Cambodia Co Ltd, issued a statement on November 25, 2021, saying that the loggers were not employees, supervisors, contractors or in any way related to his company or its sawmill in Reabroy commune of Preah Vihear province’s Rovieng district.

Leng Rithy, director of PNT Co Ltd, could not be reached for comment on December 30.