National Military Police commander Sao Sokha on Wednesday ordered the destruction of more than 20 vehicles involved in forestry crimes in Mondulkiri province’s Koh Nhek district.
Sokha, who also heads the National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes, gave the order after the committee’s task force carried out inspections at companies that had been granted economic land concessions in the district.
Eng Hy, the spokesman for the committee and National Military Police, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
But according to the National Military Police’s Facebook page on Wednesday, Sokha had led an inter-ministerial working group to oversee the crackdown.
The vehicles confiscated in the operation were destroyed with explosives.
“We don’t arrest people or confiscate things arbitrarily. We follow the law . . . we gather solid evidence before taking action.
“Not all timber hauling activities are illegal. For example, you would be jailed for transporting even a truckload of timber if you don’t have a permit. But if you transport, say, 100 truckloads of timber with proper permit, you won’t be punished because it is legal.
“The same goes for logging. You would be punished if you fell even one tree without authorisation. But if you have a permit, you can clear as many hectares of forest as legally allowed,” he said.
Sokha said the government provides economic land concessions to attract investments in the agriculture sector.
He said that through such concessions, private companies can help develop infrastructure such as hospitals or schools in the localities for villagers to use them.
However, he said some opportunists had secured land concessions with the intention of logging valuable timber, and this had prompted the committee to take action.
Neither Mondulkiri governor Svay Sam Ieng nor provincial environment department director Keo Sophors could be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Mondulkiri provincial Military Police commander Hem Bonarel told The Post on Wednesday that provincial governor Sam Ieng had ordered officials to shut down all timber-processing operations in the province.
Two large timber-processing locations near the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, he said, had also been shuttered for operating without a licence.
“We are preparing a report after inspections at six economic land concession companies, while His Excellency Sao Sokha visits Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces to oversee the same operations,” he said.
Forest activist Heng Sros said without citing sources that the government had revoked the six companies’ concessions in Mondulkiri province.
“We are constantly monitoring to determine whether the annulment was just a show or was made to transfer the concessions to other powerful people.
“From what I have observed, there are only one or two companies that have planted cashew trees, while others kept the land vacant after large-scale logging. I support the shutdown of all timber depots and timber-processing locations in Mondulkiri province,” he said.