The Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation (NRWPO) said that on behalf of rangers, it will formally request the Ministry of Environment next week to provide proper vehicles to transport evidence of forestry crimes.
The organisation director, Chea Hean, said environmental rangers often needed means of transport to transfer evidence seized during a crackdown, such as timber, from the forestry crime scene to a relevant authority’s office.
“The [perpetrators] are better than us because they have vehicles to transport their timber across the border,” Hean told The Post on Tuesday.
His organisation, the activist said, will draft a letter and deliver it to the minister, asking for a resolution to this matter.
“The success of our crackdowns depends on the availability of vehicles. If we don’t have any means to transport evidence for safekeeping at the authority’s headquarters, we would be forced to destroy them [on the spot]."
“It’s shameful that we, as law enforcement officials, don’t have adequate means of transport,” Hean said, adding that a large lorry would be ideal to transport some evidence.
He lamented that the rangers had instead been using their own motorbikes to carry out patrols and that the lack of proper vehicles to transport evidence had slowed down their attempts to stamp out forestry crimes.
In response to NRWPO’s statements, Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said Hean’s request was “good” but “ill-intentioned”.
“It was ill-intentioned because such requests would spur more forestry crimes,” he said.
The environmental rangers have generally amped up their efforts in preserving natural resources – including the wildlife – in the protected forests, using all sorts of vehicles available, Pheaktra said.
“The Ministry of Environment pays the highest attention to the preservation works and has implemented all necessary actions to protect the natural resources that exist in Cambodia,” he said.
Mondulkiri provincial Department of Environment director Keo Sopheak said on Tuesday that the ministry often provided assistance to his administration, but conceded that the help was often insufficient.
“The amount of assistance provided could not satisfy all our needs. We still have a shortage of vehicles to transport evidence,” he said.
Sopheak said besides using motorcycles, the rangers in his jurisdiction also often used makeshift tractors in doing their work.
However, he said that such means of transport were unreliable for they easily break down due to the harsh conditions of the roads in the forest and the rangers’ lack of technical skills to repair the vehicles.
Sopheak continued that in one incident on May 19, a team of rangers were unable to transport 810 logs from a crime scene to the department office, illustrating their urgent need for a proper vehicle.
He said after the incident, the team left the seized evidence in the initial location and constructed a temporary structure that served as an office.
“We deployed other rangers from other areas to guard the logs,” he said.
Emphasising the shortage of vehicle, Sopheak called on the government to supply additional means of transport for them.
“Even our supporting partners have limited budgets to help us in regards to logistics. What we achieved in the past was partially attributed to the creativity of the team at the environment department,” he said.