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Kampong Speu authorities, NGO confronted in timber truck raid

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ACNCIPO director Chea Hean (centre) had collaborated with forest rangers to assist with cracking down on forest crimes at the Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary on April 4. Chea Hean

Kampong Speu authorities, NGO confronted in timber truck raid

The Kampong Speu provincial Forestry Administration and environmental watchdog ACNCIPO attempted to seize 20 home-made trucks and nearly 20 cubic metres of timber from the Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary on Saturday but were stopped by over 100 people who gathered in groups to resist the raid.

ACNCIPO director Chea Hean told The Post on Sunday that he had collaborated with 14 forest rangers to assist with cracking down on forest crimes.

They were tasked with regularly patrolling and protecting the sub-headquarters of O’trao, Srae Kren, Phnum Toch, Teuk Pus, Khsal and others in the Central Cardamom and the Southern Cardamom conservation areas.

Hean said a working group first spotted the 20 home-made trucks which were carrying the nearly 20 cubic metres of timber.

When the crowd of more than 100 arrived, the timber ended up falling off the trucks and the perpetrators managed to escape.

Hean lamented that the transportation of the timber by home-made trucks, ox-drawn carts and vans has continued unabated.

He said the wildlife sanctuary is contained in an area where illegal transportation of timber happens frequently, and that’s why he requested rangers to inspect the area.

“When we patrolled the forest, we spotted 20 home-made trucks transporting timber and we held them. Moments later, people armed with knives, axes and home-made rifles came to liberate them and shouted threats at us.

“We backed down a little for fear of our safety. Suddenly, they let the timber fall and drove the home-made trucks away.”

Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary office deputy head Hul Mara said on Sunday that he and a working group of 13 other people had joined the patrols with Chea Hean.

He confirmed the incident and said that because his group was small in number, they couldn’t confront the offenders.

“We could not apply the law immediately in the forest because of our small numbers.

“The offenders were armed with knives, axes and batons. If we spoke strictly with them, we’d inevitably have clashed. Therefore, we backed down first and they didn’t dare mistreat us either.”

On March 31, Hean submitted a letter requesting collaboration with environment rangers stationed at each headquarters to close the passages transporting timber from the Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary and the Central Cardamom and the Southern Cardamom conservation areas.

Hopefully, he said the rangers would be encouraged to apply the law on natural resource protection.

The letter said the timber logging activity in the conservation areas was at the boundaries of Thma Bang and Sre Ambel districts in Koh Kong province, Phnom Kravanh and Veal Veng districts in Pursat province, and via the Phnom Aural area in Kampong Speu province.

The timber was transported past each sub-headquarters. But some police forces didn’t carry out any crackdowns. So, he requested that the passages in and out in the areas be closed.

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