Environmental Officials File Logging Suit

Environmental officials in Ban­teay Meanchey province have sued three suspected loggers, saying they illegally felled trees in protected areas, authorities said.

Provincial Environment De­part­ment Director Puth Chuop said Monday that officials filed a complaint with the provincial court after confiscating a chain saw and timber last month.

The illegal logging took place in Malai district’s Tuol Pongro commune in a wildlife sanctuary, Puth Chuop said.

“They were cutting down trees for business. It is a big case,” Puth Chuop said.

Environment officials said that in the past people were asked to sign contracts to stop cutting trees in the wildlife sanctuary, no­ting the Malai district case was bigger because it was related to a commercial logging business.

The complaint came as the National Assembly in July adopted a wide-ranging forestry law that stiffens penalties for forest crimes with one- to 10-year prison sentences for violations including illegal logging and breeding wild animals in captivity.

A provincial court official said a trial has not yet been scheduled.

Chay Samith, the Environment Ministry’s Nature Conservation department director, said it was hard to stop former Khmer Rouge soldiers from logging.

Two-thirds of the sanctuary lies in Battambang province and one-third lies in Banteay Meanchey pro­vince, Chay Samith said. Both provinces suffered from armed conflicts in the last two decades.

In June 2001, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said at the inauguration of the headquarters of the Roniem Daun Sam wildlife sanctuary that at least 50 percent of the wildlife habitat protected by the royal decree was gone.

At the time, Sar Kheng warned soldiers against illegal logging or taking land to enlarge their farms.

Some officials noted the 178,750 hectares that make up Ro­niem Daun Sam have been protected by decree since 1993, but were susceptible to abuse while under the Khmer Rouge.

Khmer Rouge members in the area defected in 1996.


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