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Forest patrollers accuse authorities of collusion

Prey Lang community patrollers reported a recovery of 300 pieces of timber on Sunday in Kratie province. Photo supplied
Prey Lang community patrollers reported a recovery of 300 pieces of timber on Sunday in Kratie province. Photo supplied

Forest patrollers accuse authorities of collusion

Prey Lang Community Network conservation activists in Kratie province have accused local officials of colluding with illegal timber transporters after authorities allegedly declined to intervene after being tipped off on Sunday to stockpiles of logs thought to have been felled within a wildlife sanctuary.

Ek Sovanna, one of four activists patrolling in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, said they encountered stockpiles amounting to nearly 300 first-grade logs in the Brasat Prey Toek Khmao community forest in Kratie’s Kampong Cham commune.

He added that timber-laden tractor drivers at the scene said 70 percent of the timber was logged in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, while the remaining 30 percent was logged in the community forest.

“I reported it to the environment officials, but no one worked on this case because they said the timber is in the community forest, which is not under their administration,” Sovanna said, adding that the logs added up to about 100 cubic metres.

According to Sovanna, the tractor drivers who were questioned said that they paid money to environmental officials at a nearby station, who allegedly advised them to haul the timber at night.

“[The loggers] contacted environmental officials before they hauled,” Sovanna said. “It can be considered collusion when the timber is logged from a wildlife sanctuary but [the officials] do not arrest [the criminals].”

He also claimed that Teav Oun, director of Brasat Prey Toek Khmao, and Nhem Visal, director of the sanctuary, must have been involved since the timber, which was stored along a main road in the community forest, could be easily seen.

Oun could not be reached for comment, but sanctuary director Visal said that while he was aware of the discovery, it did not fall under his jurisdiction, and he did not have enough rangers to see to the case immediately.

He did, however, say he had ultimately decided yesterday to send rangers to the scene “so that we are not accused of colluding in this case”.

Visal denied allegations of permitting the timber to be felled, although he acknowledged that a few villagers voluntarily gave officials small amounts of money when hauling out old timber to build houses.

In a separate case in Battambang province, provincial military police and Forestry Administration officials raided a house belonging to Tan Ly, 60, on Monday, finding 490 logs of luxury timber, forestry official Pit Pheareak said yesterday.

“He stocked the timber illegally. We did not see him there [so] we just seized the timber,” he said. He added that the Forestry Administration will be calling for Tan Ly to appear within a month to pay a fine, failing which the case will be taken to court.

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