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Forest crime ‘rife’ at Prey Lang

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Authorities are unable to stamp out forest crime across Prey Lang, members of Prey Lang Community Network claimed on Sunday. Supplied

Forest crime ‘rife’ at Prey Lang

A Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) member in Thmea commune, in Preah Vihear province’s Chey Sen district, on Sunday claimed that authorities are unable to stamp out forest crime in the nature reserve, instances of which have been occurring for months.

Chan Sarin, a PLCN member in the commune’s Thmea village, told The Post on Sunday that currently at least 10 loggers were engaged in illegal logging in Prey Lang across the commune.

On a recent forest patrol, he said he and three other members had photographed timber being taken out of the forest from Chey Sen district’s Thmea commune for processing in neighbouring Chheb district. The next day, environmental rangers from Thmea station visited the area, but the crimes continued unabated, Sarin said.

“Environmental rangers went there but carried nothing out. Maybe they [the rangers] just paid a visit. Logging is still happening. In short, the authorities are not paying enough attention to the loss of our forest,” Sarin said.

He added that they had asked the rangers to patrol the forest with them, but they claimed they were busy.

Srey Thei, a PLCN coordinator in Preah Vihear, on Sunday claimed that on a single day at least a few trucks were seen transporting timber from the area. Each tree was sizeable, he said, between 50 and 100cm in diameter and 6m long.

The loggers were from other provinces, Thei said.

“Only at the national level can authorities stamp out these ongoing crimes. The logging has been happening since the middle of last year,” he said.

Van Suy, an environmental ranger stationed in Thmea commune, said joint forces, including the police, had attended the scenes of illegal logging, but when they arrived, the loggers had already escaped having been warned in advance.

“When we went there, it was quiet, but when we left, the loggers continued cutting down trees again. It’s difficult. The trees were logged and already transported away. We did not see the loggers,” he said.

“Some villagers love the natural resources and help us protect the forest, but some destroy it,” he added, claiming a lack of rangers aided the loggers.

Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary chief Meas Nhem acknowledged that illegal logging occurred inside the nature reserve, but said his rangers cracked down on forest crime and sent the cases to court.

Some local villagers would engage in logging when traders offered to buy the timber, he said.

“There are more than 100,000ha of forest and there are only 10 [rangers],” he said, adding that when rangers moved in to tackle logging, the perpetrators moved elsewhere.

Ang Cheatlom, the executive director of Ponlok Khmer, an NGO in Preah Vihear that supports ethnic minorities in their efforts to protect their land rights, said it was aware of cases of logging in the Prey Lang nature reserve almost every day.

He said any crackdown from authorities just made loggers inactive for a while.

“Law enforcement officials really need to crack down on these crimes and government officials must take the law seriously and not tolerate [logging],” he said.

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