The Ministry of Environment has trained 40 park rangers who serve as judicial police officers to increase the efficiency of the protection and conservation of natural resources. They will specifically target money-laundering crimes which are related to natural resource crimes, said the Department of Environment of Preah Vihear province on the morning of July 13.

Neth Pheaktra, secretary of state and permanent deputy chairman of the Anti-Money Laundering Task Force of the Ministry of Environment, said the ministry was working with other branches of government to target these crimes.

Urging judicial police and law enforcement officials to focus on these crimes, he said now that large-scale natural resource crimes are no longer occurring, it was time to prevent the small scale crimes.

Meas Nhim, deputy director of the Preah Vihear environment department, told The Post that their training focused more on deforestation and wildlife hunting, but it was important for park rangers to gain more knowledge about anti-money laundering laws.

“Not all natural resource crimes are related to money laundering laws, but many are. Often illegal logging or the trade in wildlife or bush meat generates profit which is then funneled into another business and used to expand it. This is a good example of money laundering,” he said.

He added that although the laws have been on the books for some time, they had not been actively investigating them. Now they have turned their attention to them and expected to begin building cases.

“Natural resource crimes continue to occur in secrecy. When a crime is serious, we build a case and send it to court. If the crime is not serious, we fine them and give instructions,” he said.

He said that natural resource crimes are divided into three categories. Crimes and misdemeanors are crimes that cause serious harm to natural resources. These will be sent to court, without exception, he said.

For petty crimes, fines will be issued, and the proceeds paid to the state, he added.

Nhim said that in 2022, the Preah Vihear environment department has sent nine cases to court. Two of them involved money laundering, after illegal loggers continued felling trees after repeated warnings, and then used their profits to invest.

The Ministry of Environment has a total of more than 1,422 police officers and law enforcement officials.