The Ministry of Environment has refuted claims that unidentified persons have bulldozed roads into the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary in order to transport illegally logged timber. It insisted that no such roads have been constructed, saying it is taking stringent legal action against illegal logging operations.

The ministry issued its assurance in response to an October 5 radio broadcast that alleged new roads had been cut into the sprawling sanctuary in parts of Kratie and Stung Treng provinces. The reporting was based on undated satellite imagery, according to its October 7 press release.

“While conducting regular patrols in the area, environmental rangers from the provincial environment department have not observed any new roads,” it claimed.

The ministry warned that the broadcast had misled the public about supposed ongoing incidents in the area.

“Every logging offence – or any destruction of the natural resources within our purview – is met with stringent legal measures. Offenders are sent to court according to legal procedure, with no exceptions,” it stated.

Sreng Chea Heng, director of the Stung Treng environment department, explained on October 8 that following past deforestation activities, his officials and local authorities conducted regular patrols. None of the patrols had noted any new paths being cut as alleged.

“After the old roads were cleared, we deployed over 20 rangers to the Prey Lang area to conduct regular patrols. They have not seen any new paths or roads. I believe the broadcast was about paths that were cut long ago,” he said.

Last July, the government issued a sub-decree expanding the 431,683ha sanctuary to 489,663ha. It spans Kratie, Stung Treng, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear provinces.

The decree aimed to guarantee the preservation of the sanctuary and its ecosystem in order to contribute to climate change and disaster mitigation. It encourages local community participation in managing, protecting and conserving biodiversity and natural resources in the region.