A senior opposition lawmaker is calling for a crackdown on what he described as a surge in illegal logging in Koh Kong province’s Thma Bang district, saying military officers and local officials are complicit in the crime.
Sam Rainsy Party MP Son Chhay said yesterday that illegal logging had been common in four communes of the district for three years: Chumnap, Russei Chrum, Pralay and Tatei Leu. Over the last six months, however, the illegal trade had surged due to the involvement of the local officials and the military. “They [illegal loggers] do not worry about getting caught, because they do not get investigated,” he said.
He added that the loggers are hacking down 300-500 cubic metres per day of luxury timber, such as rosewood trees.
On October 10, he wrote to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun urging him to take the “strongest measures” possible to crack down on illegal logging in the district.
“Take urgent measures and put an end to these illegal activities, as well as having any culprits arrested, including any officials involved, and taken to court,” said the letter, a copy of the letter was obtained by the Post yesterday. “As far as I know, our government is yet to grant any permission to log in the area,” Son Chhay wrote.
Thma Bang district police chief Ngim Vary said he had noticed an increase in the amount of illegal logging activity in the area. “Illegal logging is rising in my district,” he said, adding that he had been working with the Forestry Administration to stop it.
“We are calling for high level of authorities and relevant ministries and departments to work with us to combat illegal loggers,” Ngim Vary said.
Minister Chan Sarun on Wednesday said that he had replied to Son Chhay’s letter, but did not elaborate.