THE number of prosecutions in illegal logging and wildlife-trading cases increased by one-third in 2009, though the involvement of “high-ranking officers and businessmen” in such activities continues to complicate authorities’ efforts to crack down on them, the director of the Forestry Administration said Wednesday.
“Last year, our authorities arrested more than 80 perpetrators in illegal logging in wildlife cases and sent them to court,” Ty Sokhun, adding that only 60 such prosecutions took place in 2008.
“But I believe that these cases continue – not just because of the people we arrest, but because there are also high-ranking officers and businessmen behind them,” he said.
We are...concerned because illegal loggers... are coming from other areas."
The Forestry Administration tallied a total of 675 illegal logging and wildlife-trading cases in 2009, down slightly from 686 in 2008, Ty Sokhun said.
But the amount of illegally logged wood confiscated by the administration increased by 400 cubic metres to 2,700 cubic metres in 2009, he said, adding that confiscated wild animals – both dead and alive – weighed about 2,000 kilograms in total.
Though Ty Sokhun said the authorities had aggressively cracked down on illegal logging and wildlife-trading, Keo Chhan, chief of the Boeung Cha protected forest area in Kratie’s Sambo district, said the local threats had not diminished considerably.
“My forest community has many wild animals, forested areas and other resources,” Keo Chhan said. “And currently we are very concerned because illegal loggers and hunters are coming from other areas to invade our community.”
The Ministry of Agriculture on Wednesday held a chainsaw-destruction ceremony in the capital to demonstrate another component of the government’s efforts to crack down on illegal logging. A total of 695 chainsaws were crushed by bulldozers in a ceremony near the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
Speaking at the ceremony, Ouk Sokhon, a secretary of state at the ministry, said: “According to our figures, from 2006 until now we have found and confiscated more than 11,000 chainsaws, and we have destroyed more than 3,000.”
Chan Soveth, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said efforts to curtail illegal logging could be aided by a reduction in economic land concessions.
“We need to keep telling law enforcement to crack down on illegal logging and also the illegal export of luxury timber,” he added.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KIM YUTHANA