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‘Logging rampant despite pandemic’

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Forest activists claimed they had observed more cases of deforestation in the Prey Lang area than before the Covid-19 outbreak. Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN)

‘Logging rampant despite pandemic’

Forest activists claimed they had observed more cases of deforestation in the Prey Lang area than before the Covid-19 outbreak.

They alleged that three companies had sent workers to log and transport timber with no crackdown by the relevant authorities.

Heng Sros, an activist in Stung Treng province, told The Post on Monday that the three firms – Think Biotech (Cambodia) Co Ltd, Angkor Plywood, and Thy Nga Co, Ltd Development – had sent workers to log and haul timber to a factory near the area before transporting the sawn wood to a major company.

“Those who transport timber from the Prey Lang forest are not afraid of virus infection. I’ve seen between 10 and 20 vans hauling timber to Angkor Plywood per day.

“We already know that this company has obtained the rights to export timber from Cambodia for sales abroad. Up to 70 cubic metres of timber are transported per van.

“I think [environment] officials have been bribed because they stopped activists and residents from entering the area. People are concerned about deforestation in the area.

“The officials don’t try to stop the forestry crime but instead protect the companies and let them log timber,” he alleged.

Sros said he had received the information on deforestation from the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) in four provinces and from company workers.

The locations in Prey Lang where logging is most rampant, he said, are in Kratie province’s Sambor district and the O’ Lang Points area spanning Stung Treng and Preah Vihear provinces.

Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary was established in May 2016 and covers 431,683ha across Stung Treng, Kratie, Kampong Thom, and Preah Vihear provinces.

Khut Soeurm, a PLCN member in Preah Vihear province, said deforestation in the area is also continuing unabated, especially in Rovieng district’s Reabroy commune near an investment area occupied by Thy Nga Co Ltd Development.

He attributed the increase in logging to the Covid-19 outbreak, which has forced activists to stay home.

“The Ministry of Environment doesn’t allow us to patrol the forest, so we can’t. But those who still do have told me a lot of timber had been logged,” he said.

On Monday, Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra declined to respond to the allegations.

However, he said they are merely political activists in disguise claiming to protect the environment and natural resources.

Pheaktra said forest rangers stationed in the areas are strictly implementing the law on Protected Natural Areas in collaboration with community members to tackle logging.

Last year, 1,200 rangers who were stationed in protected natural areas clamped down on 4,746 cases of forestry crimes, 487 of which were referred to court. They also seized 2,531 chainsaws.

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