Residents and conservationists in western Cambodia have denounced the renewed exportation of charcoal to Thailand, an illegal practice allegedly reliant on corruption that places the future of protected forests in peril.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a conservationist said border officials in Battambang province accepted bribes to let massive loads pass into Thailand.
“They pay money to the authorities at checkpoint 400. If they do not pay, they will not be able to go through,” the conservationist said.
The revelation comes two months after the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries stepped in to halt illegal charcoal exports from the region, following reports that up to 80 tonnes were entering Thailand each month.
Charcoal exportation is banned under sub-decree 131, but up until March, it continued openly. Exportation has now reportedly resumed under cover of night.
According to local residents, the charcoal is produced from timber illegally harvested from the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary and forests around Battambang’s Samlot district.
One conservationist said that it occurs with the complicity of Samlot District Governor In Saorith.
However, Saorith rejected the allegations, saying “I bet my life” on illegal exports no longer taking place, instead claiming the charcoal was destined for neighbouring Pailin province.