The National Committee for the Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes, in collaboration with environment and Forestry Administration officials, cracked down on 3,312 forest crimes and arrested 228 offenders from December 2019 to November this year.
The report was disseminated on December 8 via video conference at the National Military Police headquarters in Phnom Penh. Held to review law enforcement efforts against forest crimes, the conference was attended by officials from the ministries of Justice and Mines and Energy and Military Police commanders across the country.
Eng Hy, the National Military Police spokesman and head of the committee secretariat, said that from December 2019 to November this year, the Forestry Administration prevented and cracked down on 1,920 forest crimes, arrested 63 suspects and confiscated forest products, resources, tools and some other materials.
The committee carried out operations in the provinces in cooperation with relevant officials to crack down on 1,392 cases, arrested 165 suspects, as well as confiscated evidence and handed them over to the Forestry Administration.
Sao Sokha, the National Military Police commander and chairman of the national committee, urged officials to strictly enforce the law.
“The national committee has continued to educate and disseminate laws, legal standard and regulations related to natural resources, as well as strengthen mechanisms to use forces to prevent and crack down on deforestation, timber transportation, illegal timber exports, poaching, illegal export of wildlife, encroachment on state land and all forms of illegal mining,” he said.
Sokha said authorities should set up a one-window service for the 25 capital-provinces to increase the efficiency of document management. It is to avoid forgery of invalid documents by criminals in transportation or exploitation of forests in violation of the government’s directive.
Sokha also urged officials to pay attention to the collection of evidence – which will be used in court – as proof of the government’s efforts in preventing natural resource crimes.
“I would like to ask law enforcement officials, including the environment and the Forestry Administration, the local authorities, to strictly enforce the law and to regularly inspect the forest companies in their localities to preserve the nation’s natural resources,” he said.
Pen Bonnar, the senior land and natural resources investigator for rights group Adhoc, said that in the past, authorities had cracked down only on small crimes and not on powerful individuals and the wealthy. Citing an example, he said some powerful people involved in major forest crimes in Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces have not been brought to justice.
“Although there are a lot of crackdown figures, [they are] only figures with no quality. Because we see clearly about past crimes, there’s no punishment on them. So, the problem still arises. If the law does not punish offenders who are tycoons with the honorific okhna, what [will] the people think of our law implementation?” he said.