Ethnic Banong villagers in Mondolkiri province’s Keo Seima district are now patrolling state forest at least twice a month in an effort to stop illegal logging and jungle clearances, villagers and officials said yesterday.
“To curb and combat deforestation crimes so as to keep natural resources is quite important because [we] depend on nature to live,” said Kang Sarun of Sre Khtum village in the commune of the same name.
The villagers began patrolling in September, according to Mr Sarun, who said that the Interior Ministry officially declared the area as a protected forest community on Dec 9.
On Wednesday, 12 Banong villagers who were on patrol stumbled upon two groups engaged in illegal activity in the forest, said Mr Sarun. All of the men in a small group of illegal loggers escaped but villagers were able to speak to a man from a second group that was clearing land, according to Mr Sarun.
This laborer claimed he and the four men he was with “had been hired by senior figures in government to clear the forest for land,” though he did not give any names, according to Mr Sarun.
Mr Sarun said the villagers have already sent a report to commune officials claiming there has been a jump in deforestation crimes. A second copy will be given to the Keo Seima district governor today, he added.
Sre Khtum commune chief Chhiek Chhoeng said he had not yet seen the report but that authorities are aware of a rise illegal logging and forest clearances.
“We acknowledge that logging for high-quality wood as well as forest clearance is on the rise,” he said. “Which is why we are planning to go into the jungle tomorrow…to collect evidence to make a report to send to court.”
Keo Seima District Governor Sin Vanvuth said the hands of district officials are clean.
“No local officials here. Some [perpetrators] are residents from outside who individually want the land.”