K OH KONG - Elements of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) are illegally cutting
trees in Koh Kong province under cover of permission to export previously felled
trees, according to provincial authorities here.
Pal San, Koh Kong's 1st Deputy Governor, said soldiers from the 3rd Military Region
were cutting trees in zones controlled by breakaway Khmer Rouge and on Koh Kong Krao
island before shipping the timber to Thailand.
But, he said, provincial authorities were powerless to stop the illegal activity
and have called for the direct intervention of the co-Prime Ministers.
Pal San showed the Post a letter dated Feb 29 in which RCAF Chief of Staff Ke Kim
Yan requested the co-PM's approval to remove previously cut timber from Oral district
in Kompong Speu and Thma Bang, Sre Ambil and Botom Sakor districts in Koh Kong.
Both PM's approved the request but specified that no new trees were to be cut and
that revenue was to be directed to RCAF.
But Pal San said new logging was going on.
"All of this is a lie," he said angrily. "They cheat the prime ministers...
they are cutting new trees," he said adding that about one hundred chain-saws
had been sent to Koh Kong Krao island south of the provincial capital.
Ke Kim Yan denied the allegation saying he had never ordered his soldiers to cut
down the trees.
But Koh Kong Governor Rong Plam Kesoan said he thought the activity was legal and
associated with a concession granted to a Malaysian company headquartered in Sihanoukville.
Meanwhile, Koh Kong police chief Yem Phoeung said sawn timber was being exported
to Thailand with the help of the Cambodian navy.
"The navy do not catch log smugglers, they take money and let them go,"
Government policy says, provincial police have jurisdiction over the sea to a point
five miles off the coast, but Phoeung said the navy had taken control of the zone.
"Our police want to crack down on this illegal business, but the navy do not
allow us," he said.
Admiral Khieng Savorn, the navy's maritime anti-crime commander over the seas, denied
the charge, saying there was no evidence to support the accusations.
Phoeung added that smugglers were concealing timber below the water line of small