Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Unit to tackle resource crimes

Unit to tackle resource crimes

Authorities stand beside piles of first grade timber seized in Ratanakiri province late last week. PHOTO SUPPLIED
Authorities stand beside piles of first grade timber seized in Ratanakiri province late last week. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Unit to tackle resource crimes

The government has established a new taskforce to crack down on natural resource crimes, according to a letter it sent to the Ministry of Environment on Friday, which stipulates the unit will be afforded the use of “all kinds of armed forces”.

The taskforce will be headed up by military police General Sao Sokha, who also chairs the anti-logging taskforce, a body that has seen mixed – if widely touted – results since its establishment in January.

Military police spokesman Eng Hy said he was aware of the new taskforce, but declined to comment until he had seen the letter to the Environment Ministry, which also says the taskforce would have access to the Air Force’s military helicopters in carrying out its duties, as well as the right to apply for special funding packages.

“The committee has to investigate and search for criminals and those involved in [natural resource] crime and evidence to forward to the courts . . . it has to cooperate with neighbouring countries, including Vietnam, Laos and Thailand,” the letter reads, going on to list logging, timber transportation, hunting and wild animal trafficking, state land clearing and illegal mining.

Environment Ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap said yesterday that his ministry is represented on the taskforce’s committee by secretary of state Phay Bunchhoeun, while the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is represented by Secretary of State Has Sareth, and the National Police by deputy commissioner-general Hou Sak Un. They will be joined by the governors of each of Cambodia’s 25 provinces.

Front-line environmental activists gave the new taskforce a cautious welcome yesterday. Chheuy Udom Raksmey, son of slain forest activist Chut Wutty and director of NGO the Natural Resources Protection Organisation, said the taskforce was a good thing in principle, but that he doubted it would see real results, due to what he perceived as corruption and nepotism within its de facto predecessor, the anti-logging taskforce.

“Some [tycoons] have not been jailed, they are still at large; this is [because of] nepotism and corruption in the committee,” Raksmey said. “I think [the new committee] is useless . . . it is a waste of the national budget . . . They do not work honestly. It looks determined, but it is ineffective.”

Prey Lang forest activist Hoeun Sopheap, meanwhile, was similarly dismissive, echoing Raksmey’s concerns about the work done by the anti-logging taskforce. “In the taskforce, some people are involved in crime,” Sopheap alleged. “So before [the taskforce] launches an action, [the criminals] know in advance and so bring their trucks and hide the timber. The taskforce needs to be cleared first in order to make it effective.”

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Say Sam Al issued a letter to the governors of 20 provinces rich in natural resources, instructing them to order local law enforcement to crack down on resource crimes, noting that such crimes tend to flourish in the dry season.

Last Thursday, the Forestry Administration (FA), local police and military police seized 16 cubic metres of first-grade timber in Sesan commune in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district, according to Leng Yuk, an FA official based in Bakeo district, who added that no arrests were made.

“The timber was found near the border, so the destination was Vietnam,” Yuk said.Vietnamese customs data shared with the Post by NGO Forest Trends showed at least $121 million worth of timber leaving Cambodia in the first nine months of this year alone.

MOST VIEWED

  • WHO: Covid in Cambodia goes into new phase

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia said that Cambodia has reached a new phase of the pandemic with “decreasing case numbers, high vaccination coverage and a more transmissible circulating variant threatening a hidden surge”. In a press release on September 6, the WHO said that

  • Purging Sihanoukville’s past with a new masterplan

    Amid illicit activities, haphazard development and abandoned projects, the coastal city of Sihanouk province needs a reset to move forward. A new masterplan might be the answer to shake off its seemingly mucky image to become the Shenzhen of the south Gun toting, shootouts, police

  • 'Pursue your goals, reach out to me': Young diplomat tapped as envoy to South Korea

    Chring Botum Rangsay was a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation before being designated as the new Cambodian ambassador to South Korea. According to her official CV published on the foreign ministry’s website, she started her first government

  • International air visitor arrivals dip 93%

    The number of foreign tourists entering Cambodia through the Kingdom’s three international airports witnessed a sharp 92.5 per cent year-on-year decline in the first seven months of this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The airports handled 51,729 international tourists in the January-July period versus

  • School reopening ‘offers model for other sectors’

    World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Cambodia Li Ailan said school reopening process should be used as a role model for reopening other sectors currently mothballed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Li strongly supports the government’s decision to reopen schools, saying it is a decision

  • Covid jab drive for 6-11 age group to begin Sept 17

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has permitted Covid-19 vaccinations for over 1.8 million children aged 6-11 across the country from September 17 in order for them to return to school after a long hiatus. Hun Sen also hinted that vaccinations for the 3-6 age group will follow in