Villagers who have spent recent days patrolling Prey Lang forest would file a complaint to the prime minister alleging government officials and private companies are clearing parts of the forest, a spokesman said yesterday.
“Forestry crime has doubled since the death of forestry activist Chut Wutty, and the illegal loggers behind it are all expert officials,” Chheang Vuthy, a representative of residents in Kampong Thom province’s Sandan district, said.
The 70-strong citizen patrol team who scoured the forest this week had evidence proving these officials included soldiers, police and environmental workers – and it was time for Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government to take action against them, Vuthy said.
“We will compile a document and send it to Premier Hun Sen’s cabinet and all government institutions asking for their intervention,” he said.
The patrol team, armed with cameras, discovered five highland areas where illegal loggers had cleared forest, including a 30-hectare area of land where 500 cubic met-res of timber had been felled, Vuthy said.
The group has been criticised on previous patrols for setting illegally cut timber ablaze rather than taking it to authorities.
Chhim Savuth, forum co-ordinator at the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that this time, the citizens on patrol were intent on collecting as much evidence as they could.
“A lot of forestry crime has happened in the past month involving the authorities and a private company,” he said.
Sandan district governor Oung Moly said it was highly unlikely the deforestation the villagers spoke of was actually taking place in Prey Lang.
Deputy provincial governor Uth Sam Orn, however, admitted there was crime taking place in the forest and the authorities were cracking down on it.
He urged the villagers to provide more information to him about the exact locations of illegal logging.
“We will take urgent measures if more is reported,” Uth Sam Om said.
Prey Lang covers 3,600 square kilometres across Preah Vihear, Kratie, Stung Treng and Kampong Thom provinces.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]