Villagers claim that rampant illegal logging is taking place at the Phnom Namlear Wildlife Sanctuary and local authorities are not doing enough to curb the activity.
Every night about 20 to 30 lorries remove luxury timber from the wildlife sanctuary, which is fast depleting its forest reserves.
Even the Banong ethnic community in Pou Long village in Mondulkiri Province, who have the legal right to work in the forest are deprived of their livelihoods.
Kreung Tola, an advocate for forest activists in the Banong community’s Bou Sra commune, said local residents are frustrated with the authorities because, even after numerous complaints, no stern action was taken to stop the illegal operation.
“The offenders continue to smuggle [luxury timbers] from Bou Sra commune. Being an advocate and forest protector, I urge provincial governor Svay Sam Eang to help prevent the crime and improve forest protection because it is almost gone,” he said.
He said those involved in illegal logging were armed and even threatened to harm villagers who tried to stop their smuggling activities, thus preventing locals from taking any sort of action against them.
Mondulkiri Provincial Environment Department director Keo Sopheak said police stopped the illegal activities about a week ago and even confiscated hundreds of logs near a river at the Namlear area.
But, the offenders managed to escape, he said.
“We investigated a Vietnamese company that obtained a land concession (to log) at the Phnom Namlear Wildlife Sanctuary area and found many luxury logs.
“I think the company hired people from nearby areas to fell the trees and hide them in the company’s premises,” he said.
Adhoc provincial coordinator Eang Mengly said the local authorities were not serious in tackling illegal logging but were only after minor offenders.
“Police arrest offenders, such as those who carry timber on their cycles or motorbikes. They detain those who carry small quantities of timber to be used as firewood, but they rarely look into the major cases.
“Therefore, the people in the affected communities have raised concerns over forest clearing,” he said.
According to the villagers, timber is illegally felled and smuggled into Vietnam.
In May, the UK-based Environment Investigation Agency released a report “Serial Offender” – which claimed that about one million cubic metres of illegal timber from protected areas in the Kingdom’s northeast provinces were transported into Vietnam.