Out of the woods: Forest crime often goes unpunished

Out of the woods: Forest crime often goes unpunished

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries saw at least 2,400 cases of forest- and wildlife-related crimes in 2014, of which almost 1,800 were forwarded to the courts, though fewer than 10 people were sentenced in relation to the crimes, ministry figures say.

Only seven people were either educated on forest crimes or made to face legal action, a low figure that ministry administration official Thorn Sarath attributed to the relatively minor nature of most of the crimes and the difficulty in identifying perpetrators.

Many cases, he added, don’t result in arrests because suspects flee and “people do not help the authorities catch the perpetrators”.

However, Ouch Leng, director of the Human Rights Task Force, attributed the low numbers to police collusion in forestry crimes committed by the powerful who, he said, “are not seen, and they are assisted”.

Authorities seized over 1,700 cubic metres of processed timber, about 5,600 cubic metres of unprocessed logs, just under 120 cubic metres and about 12,000 kilograms of rosewood, the report says.

Revenue derived from taxes and the sale of seized timber totalled over $17.5 million.

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