Cities, Provinces Ordered to Report on Illegal Logging, Fishing

In yet another attempt to stem the looting of Cambodia’s forests, lakes and rivers, the Interior Ministry has given all cities and provinces until July 20 to submit detailed reports on all the illegal logging and fishing taking place in their jurisdictions.

The latest initiative comes by way of a July 4 letter signed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng, following up on a Council of Ministers letter from April that called on all levels of government to preserve the country’s fisheries and protected forests.

Mr. Kheng’s letter calls on the cities and provinces “to report to the government about their measures to protect forests, fisheries and protected areas” by July 20.

It asks them to detail what measures they have taken to stamp out illegal logging and fishing, to estimate how much of each is taking place and explain what challenge they are facing in their efforts. The letter asks provincial officials to list all the shops buying and selling wood and making furniture, both legally and illegally. Provinces bordering another country are also asked to list all checkpoints and corridors being used to ship timber out of Cambodia.

The minister’s letter does not explain the timing of the order. A spokesman for the ministry could not be reached for comment.

Chhim Savuth, head of the Natural Resources Protection Group, said past orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen himself to crack down on illegal logging and fishing had done nothing to stem the problem.

“We have seen sub-decrees and notices before to stop illegal logging and transport, but there is still widespread illegal logging, even in protected areas and community forests,” he said.

Chan Soveth, deputy head of monitoring for rights group Adhoc, said the order may work for a short time, but added that rampant corruption would make it difficult to genuinely root out the bad actors.

“It will not work because the government does not implement the Forestry Law effectively,” he said. “It [the government] prioritizes nepotism over the interests of society, so they will not arrest any officials. If they made arrests, they would lose their jobs.”

Rights groups say most illegal logging goes unchecked, and often with the consent or assistance of local officials, police and soldiers.

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