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Sanctuary bridge ‘torched’

Stockpiled lumber allegedly felled in Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakkiri this month
Stockpiled lumber allegedly felled in Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakkiri this month. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Sanctuary bridge ‘torched’

The burning of a bridge that provided access to the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakkiri is the handiwork of two oknhas and local environment officers, villagers have claimed.

In a complaint to rights group Adhoc, members of the ethnic Lao community in Kon Mom district say that the okhnas and officials have been carrying out extensive logging in the sanctuary and burned the bridge to cover their tracks.

“The oknhas … and environment officials colluded with each other to log the sanctuary for a number of months,” said Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for Adhoc.

The honourific “oknha” is a Royal title bestowed on men or women who make significant financial contributions to the ruling party and its projects.

Thy claimed loggers had piled up flammable rubbish on a 3-by-6-metre bridge that connected the sanctuary to the nearby Hoang Anh Andong Meas economic land concession and set it alight.

“Their superiors began realising this illegal logging was taking place and attempted to visit there, so the bridge was burned,” he said. Villagers, in their complaint, claimed that logged timber was being taken onto the grounds of nearby land concessions.

Seng Mony, a representative of rubber company Hoang Anh Andong Meas, said he no longer worked there. Other representatives could not be reached.

A community member who asked not to be named because he was concerned for his safety said extensive logging of the sanctuary had been going on for the past two years, a claim consistent with previous reports in the Post.

He believed that more than 50 people and 10 trucks were involved.

Chhoem Sokhim, chief of Sre Angkrang commune, said logging within the sanctuary certainly occurred but he was not aware who was behind it.

Ou Sothy, director of the sanctuary, and Son Sovannsong, an officer below him, could not be reached yesterday, while Chou Sophal, from the provincial department of environment, declined to comment.

Adhoc plans to visit the wildlife sanctuary next week, Thy said.

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