The Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) seized more than 20 chainsaws after spotting illegal logging operations at the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear and Kratie provinces.
The group had embarked on several weeks of patrols in the area after getting wind of the illegal logging operations and handed over the seized items to environmental rangers and the Forest Administration on Tuesday.
A statement posted on its Facebook page said: “The chainsaws were then handed over to local representatives from the Ministry of Environment. Illegal logging is still happening in Prey Lang, and the lack of law enforcement is evident,” it said.
PLCN says it wants the government to strengthen law enforcement in the protected area of the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary.
Chin Monorith, deputy director in Preah Vihear for the government agency in charge of the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, said he obtained the chainsaws from PLCN, but the group had rendered them unusable.
“The chainsaws were exposed to acid. We don’t understand why they destroyed them with acid,” he said.
Monorith, whose agency has often been accused by environmentalists of turning a blind eye to forest crimes, again denied allegations that illegal logging was a serious problem. The usual suspects, he said, are busy farming this time of year.
“Illegal logging is quiet now, but during the dry season the chances of it happening is higher as there are many exits in the forest,” he said.
However, Pok Hong, a PLCN member in Preah Vihear’s Chey Sen district, disagreed.
She claimed the PLCN can attest to the fact forest crimes are currently going on unabated.
“The number of forest crimes never declines. It stays the same. We are very concerned about it, but are unsure how to deal with the problem more effectively,” she said.
In May 2016, the government placed over 400,000 hectares of the Prey Lang forest in Kompong Thom, Preah Vihear, Kratie and Stung Treng provinces under its protection.
Research presented to the United Nations this week says if current trends continue, forests in Cambodia will disappear by 2040.