Civil society organisation ACNCIPO director Chea Hean said on Thursday that he has discovered a resurgence of large-scale logging within areas of the South Cardamom Mountains in Kampong Speu province’s Oral district, a claim shot down by authorities.
Hean, an environmentalist, said he visited the area last week and noted that about 40 cubic metres of timber were laid in piles near a sawmill that was raided once before by authorities but now seems to be back in operation.
He claimed there were no local authorities looking into the case and that he would seek intervention from the armed forces because the perpetrators are operating without fear of arrest.
The sawn timber, he said, is being transported from the forest to Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel district without interruption from police.
“I plan to go down to the area again and ask the armed forces to go there and arrest the owners of the site and all the stakeholders, seizing both items and the owner to send to the court.
“This time, the perpetrators will absolutely not be forgiven. Environmental rangers have ignored this, and instead take bribes from forest criminals,” he said.
Hean said the armed forces should organise a surprise raid in order to catch the forest criminals red-handed rather than announcing imminent crackdowns and giving them time to flee the area, as has happened in the past.
Kampong Speu provincial Department of Environment deputy director Nov Nak said authorities have already cracked down on logging in the area.
“We have already cracked down and prevented the crime. There are no more offences. I have not received any further information from officials stationed there,” he said.
South Cardamom Mountain National Park director Long Si, who is in charge of the area, on Thursday disputed Hean’s claims.
He said there was no large-scale deforestation in the area as mentioned, but admitted cases of wildlife poaching continue to plague it.
Officials, he said, were on regular patrols and authorities had arrested many perpetrators and confiscated numerous items.
He urged the locals to cooperate with forestry and wildlife protection officials because the authorities in the area are shorthanded to respond to the volume of work there.
“I do not know how this civil society group followed and found forest crime because we have already cracked down on it.
“There are no large-scale forest crime cases today. Only cases of wildlife hunting and snaring at night occur,” he said.
Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang could not be reached for comment on Thursday.