Ten men were caught engaged in illegal logging during a three-day patrol by the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) that began on Friday.
This led a representative of the group to declare that illegal logging at the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province “is continuing unabated”. Seventeen PLCN members, and authorities from Chey Sen district’s Thmea commune, were involved in the three-day patrol at the sanctuary.
Srey They, a patroller, said they witnessed several crimes that contravened forestry laws and arrested the 10 loggers. The team also confiscated 12 chainsaws and 90 litres of petrol. He said the arrests involved four different incidents.
“In one arrest, [the alleged illegal loggers] were in the process of felling resin trees with chainsaws. The wood was to be used as home construction materials.
“There were about 50 cubic metres of timber that they had logged, but we could not seize it as we did not have tractors to transport it out of the forest,” They said, adding that the suspects were from Kampong Thom, Kratie and Kampot provinces.
When one team of loggers were questioned, they allegedly confessed that they were employed by men they knew only as Dy and Mao.
The loggers were paid $37.50 per cubic metre of sawn timber and allegedly claimed that they had to “grease” a few palms along the way as a necessity.
“It’s frustrating,” They said. “Sawn timber was transported in front of officials, but they did not stop it. “I asked the loggers how they felled the trees without being detected, and they said their employers had already paid off the relevant officials. Only the people from the commune refused to take money.”
The 10 who were arrested during the patrol were released after questioning and warned not to repeat the crime again. In addition to illegal logging, the patrol spotted villagers hunting wildlife with an AK-47 and home-made rifles. They said most of the illegal activities took place at night. The patrol noticed that the forest crimes were happening unabated, and sometimes five heavy trucks transported timber at night.
Thmea commune police chief Ley Tuon said one of his officers, who joined the patrol to protect the team from being attacked by illegal loggers, believes forest crimes were being carried out on a small scale only.
“People will log wood and sell it for their livelihood. But when the community goes out patrolling, they stop for a while,” Tuon said.
Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary Deputy Director Chin Monorith said some forestry crimes were carried out by residents in the area.
“Some villagers received permission to log timber as construction material to build homes, but they would then fell more trees to sell for an income. Some crimes occurred at night, but it is difficult to crack down on them as we do not have enough rangers and weapons,” Monorith said.