Following an investigation of alleged illegal logging by Vietnamese Company 72 in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district forests yesterday morning, provincial Forestry Administration officials claimed nothing seemed awry.
Four villagers patrolling the forest at the border of Vietnam reported they had seen six Vietnamese loggers with two tractors, felling about 40 10-metre long logs. When the forest patrol showed up, the loggers allegedly fled.
Phan Phoeun, deputy chief of the Forestry Administration in Ratanakkiri, said he visited the area and saw no sign of illegal logging. He did see 84 felled trees, but maintained it was timber legally felled by Company 72.
“The ethnic community guided us there, but we did not find anyone felling trees,” Phoeun said. “The trees [we did find] were old logs and we will measure them and have the company pay taxes for them.”
Phoeun watched video footage taken on Sunday but said that it must have been a different area.
“We can only believe what we see and find with our own eyes. We did not see the illegal logs,” he said, adding that the forest is made up of 10,000 hectares of land, 6,000 hectares of which was granted to Company 72.
“There should be about 4,000 hectares left, but there are only about 3,000 because the villagers cleared it themselves,” Phoeun said.
Provincial Adhoc investigator, Chhay Thy, said the loggers are smart enough to flee rather than stay behind and face arrest.
“They already left the scene, but we saw 30 logs left by them and tyre marks of trucks,” Thy said, adding that the forestry officials could not know the full situation after only investigating the issue for one day.
“[The forestry officials] did not recognise the truth or pay full attention. If they did, the forest would not be almost gone. Last year, they didn’t believe this until we arrested seven Vietnamese loggers for them,” Thy said, adding that Adhoc will continue to work with the community to patrol the forest and will arrest any illegal loggers and turn them over to police.