A ban on the importation of chainsaws into Cambodia could be in the offing, after agriculture officials this week called for a nationwide crackdown on the illegal logging trade.
The call for a chainsaw ban by Agriculture Minister Ouk Rabun on Monday followed the release earlier this month of an official half-year report from the ministry, which claims that forestry crimes had decreased slightly compared to the same period last year.
Rabun, speaking on Monday, urged the Forestry Administration to curb the availability of chainsaws in rural areas.
Eang Sophalleth, an undersecretary of state at the Agriculture Ministry, said a nationwide crackdown on illegal loggers would be launched in the near future.
“The ministry and Forestry Administration are calling for a crackdown on these activities and a nationwide curbing of [illegal logging] will soon occur to try to control the problem,” he said.
Over the past two decades, numerous “logging crackdowns” have been announced by the government; however, forest monitors report that they rarely have any discernible positive impact on the ground.
Lor Chan, Preah Vihear provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said he had not observed any attempts to limit the availability of chainsaws at markets since orders were given to prohibit their sale.
“Measures should be taken on both the vendors and the customers,” he said.
Most of the chainsaws that Adhoc has discovered on sale in markets in the province are sourced from Vietnam and China, he added.
The six-month report from the Agriculture Ministry included data on forest crimes, which it claims are slightly down compared to the first half of 2014.
It said that 1,064 forest crimes had been recorded so far this year, compared with 1,104 last year. Of the crimes this year, almost 800 resulted in court cases and 273 fines were issued.
Despite fewer crimes being recorded, the ministry said more timber had been confiscated, along with 265 chainsaws.
Stella Anastasia of Adhoc said via email that it while it was not possible to verify the data in the report, any drop in forest crimes was unlikely to be related to government actions.
“Communities are increasingly organising forest patrols to fight deforestation and prevent illegal loggers . . . And this [is] mainly in response to the inactivity of authorities,” she said, adding that previous “crackdowns” only targeted small-time loggers.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY REBECCA MOSS