In the first six months of this year, rangers from the Ministry of Environment went on 14,422 patrols in protected natural areas and biodiversity corridors, investigated 4,238 cases of natural resource offences, imposed fines in 511 of those cases and sent 515 of the cases to court for prosecution.
Most of the offences were land grabbing attempts in state forest land, deforestation or logging and poaching, the ministry report showed.
It said that on July 15 a large-scale law enforcement crackdown on natural resources offences took place with 1,260 rangers joining other police forces to patrol 75 protected areas and biodiversity corridors covering 7.3 million hectares of land.
Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said authorities will continue law enforcement to protect and conserve natural resources in protected areas, which make up 41 per cent of the Kingdom’s territory currently.
Pheaktra said large-scale natural resource offences in natural protected areas were no longer occurring in the same manner that they once did. The problem, he claimed, now involves only offenders individually carrying out small-scale offences like trapping animals, which still caused serious harm to the environment in the aggregate.
“The environment ministry will continue to carry out its missions responsibly and professionally by managing and conserving natural protected areas in Cambodia for generations to come.
“This is a joint effort by rangers from the ministry, natural protected area communities and partner organisations to protect and conserve natural resources in Cambodia,” he said.
Sum Chankea, Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said however that after having observed the situation over the past six months, he was of the view that a large number of natural resource offences still persisted – including illegal state forest land grabs and deforestation, most of which involved participation by village and commune authorities.
“Now, the protectors of natural resources end up getting [arrested] while sellers of forest land in conservation areas turn out to be authorities. So we do not know how to complain to officials or what to recommend.
“We encourage residents to file complaints with the courts against the offending officials. If the courts do not address these complaints, it means that the courts are under pressure from someone,” he said.
On June 26, the Mondulkiri Provincial Court detained and charged nine military and police officers for forestry offences and conspiring with Vietnamese traders to illegally export timber through the O’huch area in Sre Khtum commune’s O’am village of Keo Seima district, according to a provincial court spokesman.