Almost 10,000 hectares of Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakkiri province have been logged illegally since October, a conservationist claimed yesterday, in the latest account of devastation in the area.
Sum Phearun, Birdlife International’s project officer, said yesterday he was shocked at the scale of logging outside areas granted to Vietnamese company Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) Group as economic land concessions (ELCs).
“The sanctuary is a shelter for all kinds of wildlife animals – but what illegal logging is doing to the forest and its natural resources is a tragedy,” he said.
Phearun said he filed a report about the illegal logging to his manager, who then visited Hanoi to speak with HAGL Group.
“The boss of Hoang Anh Gia Lai denied his company was logging,” he said. “He says he’s not involved, but maybe [others in the company] are.”
The Post reported last week that HAGL owns companies that hold at least three ELCs totalling almost 30,000 hectares in the area, including two inside the sanctuary. Under the Land Law, an individual can possess up to 10,000 hectares of ELC land.
NGO workers have accused the companies – Hoang Anh Andong Meas, Hoang Anh Lumphat and Hoang Anh Ouyadav – of illegal logging in the past month, based on witness accounts and timber seizures.
HAGL gave no comment. A representative of Hoang Anh Andong Meas said he was busy.
Chhay Thy, from rights-group Adhoc, has estimated that about 16,000 trees have been felled illegally in the sanctuary.
One worker, speaking anonymously, said logging and associated corruption was widespread in the sanctuary.
“I’ve seen timber being transported out,” he said. “They also hunt animals. They dare to log, so why not hunt?”
Veasna Thou, from Birdlife International and People, Resources and Conservation Foundation, said logging threatened all birds in the area, including the white-shouldered ibis, the sarus crane and the long-billed vulture.