The Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) has recorded 2,926 cases of forestry crimes in four provinces since February 2015, a report it released on Thursday said. It was based on data collected with a novel smartphone app.
PLCN members – an alliance of local communities living around the forest in northern Cambodia – have patrolled Prey Lang since 2001 to document cases of illegal logging. But poor data management made reporting haphazard.
To overcome the difficulty, PLCN adopted the app in 2015 to improve data collection methods and create a centralised database.
The app, created by the agency Web Essentials and the University of Copenhagen, have substantially streamlined data collection since its debut.
The forest spans across Kampong Thom, Stung Treng, Kratie and Preah Vihear provinces.
“Since 2015, PLCN has systematically recorded a total of 2,926 cases of illegal activities using smartphone technology,” the report said.
Most cases happened in Kampong Thom at 1,019 (34.83 per cent). It is followed by Kratie at 911 (31.13 per cent), Stung Treng at 568 (19.41 per cent) and Preah Vihear at 428 (14.63 per cent).
In August alone, PLCN recorded 33 cases of timber transportation and found 36 tree stumps, 18 planks and four cleared areas.
“In August the network documented a number of forestry crimes … None of the perpetrators had valid permits,” the report said.
In May 2016, the government designated 400,000ha of Prey Lang forest in the four provinces as protected wildlife sanctuaries under the jurisdiction of the Environment Ministry.
PLCN member in Kampong Thom province, Hoeun Sopheap, said forestry crimes have occurred unabated in Kampong Thom province as there is easy access for offenders to log and transport the timber out of the forest.
He said some officials had received bribes from timber transporters.
“Some officials do not enforce the laws, especially forestry administration and environment officials. If laws are enforced, such crimes would not happen. They are colluding with offenders,” he said.
Sopheap said that offenders would cut the timber into smaller parts so they could conceal the contraband.
He said PLCN members use more than 40 smartphones to collect data.
Kampong Thom provincial environment department director Tob Kakada said while he had not seen the report, forestry crimes had actually declined in the sanctuary bordering his province thanks to the regular crackdown.
“We try to curb the crimes every day. We’ve busted more forestry crimes [than at the other provinces],” he said.
Kakada said he had always warned his rangers against accepting bribes. “We never see them taking [bribes] with our own eyes,” he said.