The government is allowing thousands of trees to be cut to help fund the renovation of a 46-km stretch along Route 12 between Kompong Thom and Preah Vihear provinces.
But officials deny that military units involved in the road construction are responsible for illegal logging that also has been occurring in the area, including at a nearby wildlife sanctuary.
Since January, an RCAF engineering unit has been working to restore a portion of the road that leads north from the border of Kompong Thom, government officials said recently.
A senior government environmental official said the RCAF unit and a road-construction company were given permission to cut as far as 100 meters from both sides of the road, to help the government fund the $960,000 project. Government officials say they are selling the logs to Chernda Plywood, a Taiwanese concessionaire in Preah Vihear province.
But the senior environmental official charged that the road construction crews have cut deeper into the forest than 100 meters. “They have tried to cut trees 2 to 3 km” into the forest, he recently claimed.
Forestry Director Or Soeurn and Kompong Thom Governor Cheang Am both denied that the government engineering units are responsible for the illegal logging. But they differed on who is to blame.
Cheang Am blamed the illegal cutting on villagers. He acknowledged there had been cutting in the nearby Boeng Per wildlife sanctuary, but said it is on a small scale, noting that land mines remain strewn in the area.
But Or Soeurn charged that a Taiwanese-logging company and provincial authorities had taken advantage of the road construction agreement to hire villagers to cut trees deep into the forest and in the wildlife sanctuary.
The logs are in stockpiles and “we will ask the government to consider whether the logs should be seized,” Or Soeurn said. He estimated that the illegal cutting totals 13,000 cubic meters, 7,000 of which are in the sanctuary.
Or Soeurn said the logging in the sanctuary and along the road has stopped, and that the company will be punished if it resumes. He also said the forestry department will issue an order prohibiting any logs from being transported from Kompong Thom except the logs allowed to be cut along Route 12.