Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prey Lang network says authorities profit from illegal logging

Prey Lang network says authorities profit from illegal logging

Members of the Prey Lang Community Network hold a press conference at Meta House
Members of the Prey Lang Community Network hold a press conference at Meta House yesterday morning to release their new report on logging and forest destruction. Vireak Mai

Prey Lang network says authorities profit from illegal logging

Political and business elites have been directly involved in and profited from illegal logging in the Prey Lang forest in northern Cambodia, according to a new report from members of the Prey Lang Community Network.

The 142-page study, titled Our Forest Remains Under Destruction and released yesterday, says law enforcement and forest management officials consistently fail to act in the face of illegal activity in the forest, for which they also lack concrete prevention measures.

“The role played by authorities such as police, environmental and forest administration officers is not preventing timber from being transported, but amassing money from illegal timber transporters,” the report states.

According to the report, abuses are found in all of the 33 communes in Prey Lang, with illegal logging exacerbated by legitimate loggers operating outside their licences.

“These illegal acts should be punished under the law,” said Sar Mory, vice president of the Cambodian Youth Network NGO. “They have no right to log, but they log anarchically without anyone stopping them.”

Mory said more than 40 large- and small-scale sawmills involved in the activity have been uncovered, with government officials often complicit.

Ruos Lan, a community representative in Kratie – one of the five provinces the forest extends into – said that while environmentalists have been criticised for aggressive acts such as burning chainsaws, inaction on the part of authorities had forced such radical moves.

He also said complaints that activists did not consult officials before engaging in activities designed to catch forest criminals or stop their work were unfair, given the level of corruption in the area.

“How can we inform them when the offenders are police and commune and village officers? So I want to arrest thieves, do I have to inform those thieves in advance?” he said.

Forestry Administration director Chheng Kimsun could not be reached for comment.

Speaking at a Ministry of Agriculture ceremony on April 8, Prime Minister Hun Sen recently declared forestry crimes a major problem and lamented the inability of authorities to effectively prevent them.

But according to analyst and political aspirant Kem Ley, the key to prevention lies in withdrawing responsibility over the forests from corrupt authorities and handing it to local communities, who should receive incentives such as conservation jobs. “Hand the land back to the communities, they can protect it,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,