Pursat provincial authorities on Wednesday raided a sawmill operating without a licence and confiscated 21 logs totalling 13 cubic metres at Kset Borei village in Phnom Kravanh district’s Santre commune, while the owner escaped.
Provincial environment department director Pan Morakat told The Post on Thursday that the almost 20-member task force also seized two sawing machines, four sawing wheel machines, two motors, five saw blades and 20m of cable.
Morakat said his force also planned to raid three other unauthorised sawmills in the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary near the border of Kampong Speu province. He said the latest raid was just the beginning of a major crackdown on forestry crime in the area.
“We clamped down on this sawmill, and we plan to raid three other locations near the border with Kampong Speu in the Oral Mountains. I’ve requested more task force members because it’s a very dangerous area. Offenders there are normally equipped with firearms. If we have too few people, the raid cannot be carried out,” he said.
Pursat provincial deputy Military Police commander So Sovanndy told The Post that he had not received any update on the matter as he had been occupied with other important work.
In a separate case in Mondulkiri province’s O’Raing district, a group of forest activists found more than 20 planks of luxury timber while patrolling a forest in the Peam O’Entry area, on the border of Dak Dam and Bou Sra communes on Wednesday, Dak Dam community chief Boret Kompi said.
Kompi said his community had sent a report on the discovery of the more than 10 cubic metre haul to local authorities, who he said had not taken any action.
“The timber was hidden in separate locations. We gathered the wood in one place and reported it to local authorities, but they didn’t seem to care and didn’t even come to collect the timber as evidence,” he said.
Dak Dam commune chief Chas Na said he had received the villagers’ report but had yet to pass it on to higher authorities.
“The villagers told me while I was busy with meetings at district level, so I haven’t had a chance to report to higher-ups yet,” he said.
Mondulkiri provincial environment department director Keo Sopheak said he was not aware of the case.
“I haven’t received a report yet, but I will call to ask for more information from authorities in that area,” he said.
Kroeung Tola, a forest activist in the province, told The Post on Thursday that forestry crime had not declined. He said timber trafficking in the area had been very active and that authorities took no action even after receiving reports of such crimes.
“I used to report to authorities about illicit activities and timber smuggling to Vietnam, but they didn’t seem to care. Villagers don’t want the wood to go to waste because it can take hundreds of years for a tree to grow. Timber traders smuggle wood by truck every day. I feel so sad about it,” he said.