A report issued by the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) said 152 forestry crimes were committed in January in Prey Lang forest’s four provinces – Kampong Thom, Kratie, Preah Vihear and Stung Treng – the third highest number recorded since 2015, while a senior environment department official disputed the figures.
Preah Vihear province’s PCLN coordinating committee member Srey Thei told The Post on Thursday that crime in the forest had doubled because local authorities do not seem to take action.
Sometimes, he said, the PLCN invited the authorities to join their patrols, but it was told they were too busy. He said the patrol teams had fewer members than the people who actively commit crimes in the area.
The offenders are equipped with home-made guns, he said, so the community petrol team is often afraid to confront them. Some illegal hunters have tried to attack the patrols, Thei said.
“We need to ask for more task forces from the authorities. Our community can’t stop them, because the teams that commit offences are very powerful, and the authorities said they were busy,” he said.
Kheng Kho, a PLCN representative in Stung Treng province, said the figure of 152 forestry crimes was just a preliminary estimate.
The crimes are carried out both by local people and those from other provinces, he said and claimed that in several cases, the authorities had sold some land in Prey Lang forest to illegal traders who were not from the area.
“For example, a resident in the area told me that plots of forest land measuring 50m by 500m [are sold] for $1,500, while areas that have been cleared can be sold for between $3,000 and $5,000,” Kho said.
He said the crimes include clearing the forest, logging, and trafficking the illegal logs. The community patrol team works with environment officials to prevent the crimes occurring, Kho said, but with collaboration from officials, the illegal traders can easily traffic logs from the forest.
Stung Treng provincial environment department deputy director Lay Laro told The Post on Thursday that the PLCN report was false.
He said forestry crimes had reduced as a result of cooperation between environment department officers and other NGOs who protect and patrol the area. “Based on our plan, we patrol the area between 20 and 25 days per month,” he said.