In order to preserve the Kingdom’s forests, the National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention has warned it will take strict action against offenders by burning any vehicles used to transport timber at the crime scene itself.
But environmental activists said this course of action would have a negative impact on the livelihoods of poor people in rural areas, especial those whose livelihoods depended on making charcoal.
The National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention issued a press release on Monday entitled Taking action against individuals or companies involved in forestry crimes.
It said the committee had observed that even after increasing public awareness and constant crackdowns, illegal deforestation and trafficking of timber and forestry products continued.
“In order to maintain and preserve the forest, the committee will take strict action against any individual or companies by burning transportation vehicles at the crime scene,” it said.
Environmental activist Ouch Leng told The Post that destroying vehicles would not have any effect on major wood traders, most of whom are oknha or powerful government officials.
Instead, he said, it would have a negative impact on poor people in rural areas, especially those who make charcoal.
Such people, Leng said, buy small pieces of logs left behind by big traders and burn them into charcoal to sell at the market and earn money for their daily living.
“Destroying the vehicles used in forestry crimes is not a good plan. It shows that government officers have opted for violence as a part of law enforcement.
“We should confiscate those vehicles as government property, and the offenders should pay fines and be punished in accordance with the law.
“In the past, the forest protection community and environmental rangers have complained about the lack of means to transport evidence they find in the forest while patrolling protected areas,” he said.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra declined to comment.
But National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention spokesperson Eng Hy told The Post on Monday that this action would scare offenders into ceasing their criminal activities.
“For forestry crime offenders who are backed by powerful individuals, the committee will follow legal procedures without any exception, as long as we have enough evidence to charge them or crack down on real crime,” he said.