The Mondulkiri provincial authority on Wednesday refuted claims that it had turned a blind eye to illegal timber trafficking to neighbouring Vietnam.
The denial followed the discovery of over 500 pieces of first-grade timber by the National Military Police in protected areas and local media reports that provincial governor Svay Sam Eang had allowed three tycoons to transport timber from the protected Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary to Vietnam through the Dak Dam checkpoint.
“The provincial hall has never allowed such illegal timber trafficking to happen,” said a letter issued by the provincial hall.
Provincial environment department director Keo Sopheak said the National Military Police found more than 500 pieces of first-grade timber during a raid at the protected sanctuary in Koe Sima district, although no arrests were made.
“We are working on the case. The timber was seen deep in the forest and we’re probing to find out which company the timber belongs to. We’re also working to identify the offenders,” Sopheak said.
Governor Sam Eang said he was in a meeting and declined to comment.
Kratie provincial military police commander San Bunthan said he led the crackdown on August 13 after a tip-off.
Separately, Ratanakkiri provincial military police and the O’Yadav district governor on Tuesday seized at least 50 pieces of luxury wood in Pak Nhai commune. No arrest was made, according to the National Military Police’s Facebook page.
Goldman Environmental Prize-winning activist Ouch Leng, who has investigated forest crimes in the protected Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary and the Kingdom’s eastern provinces, expressed deep concern over the trafficking of rosewood, especially at Phnom Prich, where he claimed a group of tycoons plan to log and clear the forest.
“I can confirm the logging at Phnom Prich and I am aware that around five Okhnas are destroying the over 100,000 hectares of Phnom Prich.
“At least 80 trucks transport timber out of the sanctuary each day. Each truckload has some 100 tonnes of timber,” he said.
Leng said the Mondulkiri provincial hall’s denial is just “a statement to protect those timber traders. “We must dare to reveal the truth in the national interest,” he said.
In February, senior Mondulkiri provincial officials allegedly received bribes amounting to $170,000 from Vietnamese timber traders. Some of the officials including police, military officers and military police were demoted following the scandal.