The Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) has claimed that within the past three months, 90 cases of forest offences have been carried out in the area and the numbers are only increasing.
A report released on Saturday said the biggest increase – 35 per cent – was around Kratie province. This is followed by Kampong Thom (32 per cent), Stung Treng (almost 21 per cent) and Preah Vihear (almost 13 per cent).
“Prey Lang is in danger. There is a lack of cooperation among government agencies that makes it harder for people to participate in patrolling the forest. There are clear signs of logging during this period,” the report states.
The release of the report comes at a time when the PLCN is considered illegal by the Ministry of Environment and has been banned from patrolling the Prey Lang area since early February.
The ministry has threatened to take legal action against the network if it continues to collect data about logging in Prey Lang without its permission.
Hoeun Sopheap, a PLCN member in Kampong Thom, told The Post on Monday that the report about forest offences in Prey Lang in the past three months came from actual patrolling.
He said homemade trucks enter Prey Lang daily. Each truck delivers wood three to four times per day and it can deliver wood from two to four cubic metres in size, he said.
“Forest offences have not dropped, but has increased. On Sunday, I was able to take photos of 10 homemade trucks that I observed on a path in my village. And there are hundreds of paths,” said Sopheap.
Wood delivered from Prey Lang by homemade trucks is alleged to be bought from business people who are mostly police officers, soldiers and Military Police officials.
Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the PLCN report does not represent the work of protecting Prey Lang.
“Any reports from PLCN, which is not under the law, are [their] own responsibility and the information is for its group which does not represent management and conservation of natural resources in Prey Lang.
“The ministry is working in collaboration with its partner, USAID’s Green Forest, and 19 protected areas in the Prey Lang community forest continue collaborative agreements to patrol, protect and conserve natural resources to prevent offences in Prey Lang,” Pheaktra said.
The ministry has reported that for the past four months, starting from January to April, environment officials, local authorities and community groups in Prey Lang patrolled the area 511 times and investigated forest offences, including 399 cases of logging and hunting.
Pheaktra said the reasons for forest offences in the Prey Lang area are the residents’ dependence on forest products, encouragement by illegal business people and a limited number of forest rangers.
Sopheap said PLCN is considering negotiating with the ministry once the Covid-19 situation improves.
He said it is better to find an acceptable agreement for both parties so the PLCN can patrol the forests again.