A senior Ministry of Environment official has rejected the Cambodian Youth Network (CYN) report detailing 100 illegal logging incidents they claim took place in early 2021 in Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province.
The denials came after the CYN issued a report on March 29 regarding these 100 cases and what they say is an ongoing burning and deforestation in Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary that had begun since local communities, organisations, associations and forest activists had all been barred from any patrolling of the sanctuary.
Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra dismissed the CYN report, noting that they are not legally recognised as a partner organisation of the environment ministry.
“I won’t comment on a report that was compiled without the environment ministry’s permission or in accordance with the laws on protected natural areas,” he said.
He emphasised that government through the environment ministry continues its efforts to protect and conserve natural resources in all 7.3 million hectares of protected natural areas.
Pheaktra said while he acknowledged that small-scale forest crimes persisted, no major crimes have been committed recently as the ministry is continuing to prevent them and also to focus on the livelihoods of residents in the communities surrounding the various sanctuaries.
CYN’s report claimed that between March 19-21 this year, the forest protection project team of their organisation gathered evidence of forest crimes in Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary, across Choam Ksan, Tbeng Meanchey and Chheb districts of Preah Vihear province.
“We found 100 cases of criminal activity that had recently taken place in the forest, mostly the logging of rare and priceless trees of about 45cm up to 1.35m in diameter in areas of jungle and semi-dense forest,” the report read.
Heng Kimhong, a programme manager for research and advocacy at CYN, told The Post that the stumps documented for all 100 cases are those of trees that were cut down early this year.
“We confirmed the evidence again and again of recent woodcutting. There were traces of sawdust still present, pieces of wood that weren’t rotten and fresh leaves on branches that had been trimmed.
“We are confident in our data collection for these 100 cases of logging, which we received from a network of forest activists who watch over the protected areas of Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary,” he said.
He said his team was planning to submit the report to the environment ministry in the near future.
“We are really worried about losing our forests forever. Deforestation could lead to the extinction of rare and valuable tree species. Illegal deforestation affects wildlife sanctuaries. Loss of the habitat leads to the loss of the animals,” Kimhong said.