In its attempts to curb forestry crime across the country, staff from the Forestry Administration and Environment Ministry have run into conflict with powerful people backed by military forces, the government’s forestry monitor wrote in a report released Friday.
Societe Generale de Surveillance wrote in its second quarter report for 2005 that such problems were faced by Forestry Administration officials in Kratie and Ratanakkiri provinces.
“There was a problem with influential people connected with local armed forces colluding in forest crime which was difficult for [Environment Ministry] field officers to combat,” SGS stated in the report.
“The encroachment was allegedly being carried out by military officials. Forestry Administration officials reported a lack of success in suppressing these cases due to a lack of support from the provincial court,” the SGS wrote.
“The following day, the team traveled to Ratanakkiri, again observing land encroachment and tree felling activities perpetrated by military officials…. Once again, the Forestry Administration is facing difficulty in suppressing these activities.”
SGS staff could not be reached for comment Sunday and telephone calls to Forestry Administration Chief Ty Sokhun were unsuccessful.
Disclosure of all forest and economic land concessions, including so-called “military development zones,” has been an ongoing international donor’s demand.
Mike Davis of Global Witness said the zones are estimated to cover about 700,000 hectares of land in the country and nobody knows exactly where they are located. This creates conflict when others try to inhabit them, he said.
Davis also said that Forestry Administration and Environment Ministry officials should not be considered “victims” and alleged that some “use their presence and authority” in support of forest crime rather than to curb it.
Mike Bird of Oxfam GB said there have been gun battles be-tween forest rangers and soldiers in the past. The secrecy surrounding the development zones doesn’t help the situation, he said.