B’bang Asks for Help in Stopping Illegal Oil

Battambang provincial authorities are unable to crack down on the illegal production of an oil made from the roots of rare trees in Samlot district and have asked that a joint task force be established to stop the activity, Gov­ernor Prach Chan said Sun­day.

Prach Chan said the Ministry of Environment should take im­me­diate action against unlicensed re­fineries of the rare M’reah Prov tree in Samlot’s dense forests.

“I have only suggested to the Ministry of Environment to crack­ down on stealing of M’reah Prov oil,” Prach Chan said.

Last year, provincial authorities clamped down on illegal production, but the operations seem to have been ineffective.

“We are unable to suppress that illegal activity until a national task force [is established],” Prach Chan said, adding that helicop­ters would be the best transports to the area.

An estimated 100 workers produce M’reah Prov oil in Samlot district, according to a local NGO official familiar with the issue.

The NGO official, who asked not to be identified, alleged that some RCAF soldiers were in­volved in transporting M’reah Prov oil to Vietnam.

“M’reah Prov will be extinct someday if action is not taken,” the NGO official said.

A ton of roots and a tree’s stump can produce about 40 liters of oil.

A liter fetches $7 in Cambodia, and in Vietnam it sells at about $30 per liter, according to the NGO official.

M’reah Prov oil is used as an in­gredient in food preservatives and cosmetics, and it can also be used to produce the psychoactive drug ecs­tasy, said Graham Shaw, program officer for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Phnom Penh.

Thuk Kroeun Vutha, under­se­cre­tary of state at the Ministry of En­vironment, said Sunday he has yet to receive a request to form a taskforce.

Bun Seng, commander of Mili­tary Region 5, said Sunday that he was unaware of the illegal ac­tivities in Samlot district but ad­ded that RCAF soldiers are ready to join the operation if they are asked to.

M’reah Prov trees are also be­lieved to grow in Koh Kong’s Thma Bang district.

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