Speaking before members of the Cambodian diaspora in the US on Sunday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he has ordered helicopters to be deployed above forests in the Kingdom to monitor illegal logging activities.
He also expressed his disgust towards “forest thieves” or illegal loggers and called for their arrest.
Acknowledging that much of the Kingdom’s forests have been cleared to cater to the growing population, Hun Sen said: “It is true that deforestation is happening. The forest has been substituted with paddy fields, farmlands, rubber plantations … this is due to the rising population."
“I’m ordering the deployment of helicopters to take pictures of the situation from above. I hate those thieves [illegal loggers] … millions of hectares have been cleared. It’s a loss of forests.”
His statement came after the interior minister had criticised the forestry law and blamed officials for having allowed some people to clear forests along the basin of the Lower Sesan II Dam, while environmental activists claim that measures to resolve the issues were slow and ineffective.
In late August, Ministry of Interior Secretary of State Sork Setha, ordered the Mondulkiri and Stung Treng provincial authorities to act against forestry crimes in a more effective and prompt manner.
This move was triggered after a UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency released a report dated May 31, unveiling the discovery of large-scale illegal logging activities in three different sites – Voray Chey National Park, Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary and the northern part of the Lower Sesan II Dam.
Former Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Ou Chanroth said the government’s measures are ineffective because some powerful officials are protecting large timber traders.
He said until now, there has been no prosecution of large timber traders, which resulted in the continuance of illegal logging throughout the Kingdom.
“We saw similar moves some years ago. The armed forces, military police and committees were formed and deployed to monitor and take action. We only saw results for a short period of time."
“Since then, there hasn’t been a trial and illegal logging still continues because it is backed by some powerful figures,” he claimed.