Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Forest clearing ‘rampant’ in Prey Lang

Forest clearing ‘rampant’ in Prey Lang

A Prey Lang forest community activist inspects a section of the forest after it was cleared in 2014.
A Prey Lang forest community activist inspects a section of the forest after it was cleared in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Forest clearing ‘rampant’ in Prey Lang

Illegal logging within the Prey Lang protected forest decreased significantly year-on-year over a six-month period ending in February, collected data show, though forest-clearing in the area remains rampant.

The Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN), an alliance of local communities living around the forest, documented on average more than 72 logging cases per month, a 65 percent decrease in the rate of cases during the same period the year before. The network compiled the data after patrolling areas in the park in Kampong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear provinces.

Phay Bunleang, a member of the Kratie branch of the Prey Lang Community Network, said the decline coincided with an increase in patrolling to twice each month instead of once every two months.

“That reduces the logging activities. The participation of environment officials scares loggers as well,” Bunleang said, adding that rangers with the ministry no longer return confiscated chainsaws to loggers.

Srun Darith, the chief of the Environment Ministry’s cabinet, said fewer cases were reported because of the government’s increased commitment to working with the group to protect natural resources.

“We use all existing means to protect the forest,” he said. “This helps the task to be carried out more efficiently than before and both small and big crimes have declined.”

However, Darith admitted that because of the large amount of land the forest covers not all crimes could be prevented.

Conservationist Marcus Hardtke did not see the report as cause for celebration yesterday, speculating that scarcity of luxury wood may be to blame. “There has been logging in greater Prey Lang area for 20 years . . . Perhaps incidents of logging are down because most valuable trees are gone by now,” he wrote in a message.

Ouch Leng, a conservationist and the winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, was also sceptical, saying that he believed logging had only declined a “little, not up to 65 percent” and pointing to the proliferation of sawmills as the largest problem.

“The community network intercepts activities inside the forest only, but the number of sawmills nearby their houses and timber-processing factories increase without interception,” Leng said.

“They can arrest the poor loggers only, and not the ones behind the logging. Sawmills are the cause of forest destruction,” he said.

The PLCN report highlights the group’s limitations in its patrols. If logging were to be effectively combated, they write, bigger companies would need to be targeted, as they “are laundering timber through legal concession contracts with the government” – a practice in which companies pass felled wood through economic land concessions, on which they have obtained a logging permit, making the wood appear legally sourced.

The report also highlights that the problem is worsened by corrupt officials, who take advantage of the trade for “steady revenue”, as well as the issuing of a new mining exploration permit within the forest in May.

“PLCN is deeply concerned at this and strongly encourages the [Ministry of Mining and Energy] and the [Royal Government of Cambodia] to immediately withdraw the permit in order to avoid further damage to Prey Lang,” it says.

MOST VIEWED

  • Breaking: US House passes 'Cambodia Democracy Act'

    The US House of Representatives in Washington, DC, on Monday, passed the “HR 526 Cambodia Democracy Act”, also known as the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019. If signed off by the president, the bill will allow two major sets of action to be taken against high-ranking Cambodian

  • Shanxi wins bid to build sections of new Siem Reap airport

    Shanxi Mechanization Construction Group recently won the bid to build two sections of the new Siem Reap Angkor International Airport project in Cambodia for 290 million yuan ($42.16 million). The existing Angkor International Airport in Siem Reap, 5km from the famous ancient temple complex and world tourism

  • ‘Zero-dollar’ tours under fire

    Minister of Tourism Thong Khon has blamed “zero-dollar” tour operators for the decrease in foreign tourists to Angkor Archaeological Park in the first half of this year and has called for action against them. Angkor Archaeological Park received 1.24 million foreign visitors in the first half

  • Breaking: Rubbish found packed inside 83 containers at S'ville port

    Eighty-three containers packed with rubbish were broken open at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port by joint authorities on Tuesday. The origin of the containers has yet to be ascertained, Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said. Pheaktra, who is also the ministry’s secretary of state, said