Firms Accused of Illegal Logging in Ratanakkiri

Families in Ratanakkiri province on Wednesday lodged a complaint with rights group Adhoc accusing a trio of economic land concession (ELC) owners of illegally logging outside of their concession areas and felling their vital resin and palm oil trees.

Chan Naroun said she was among 29 families in Kon Mom district’s Sre Angkrang commune who relied on tapping the trees to make a living and accused the three firms of crossing over their concession’s boundaries—and into the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary—to cut them down since February.

“The lives of my family and the other villagers here depend on this wildlife sanctuary, but now we can’t make money from collecting the resin because of the forest clearing,” she said.

Ms. Naroun said provincial environment department officials ordered the families to stop tapping the trees in February, about the same time the companies started cutting them down. The firms have felled about 600 trees to date, she added.

She said the firms promised to pay $2 per tree but never have.

Chhay Thy, a provincial investigator for Adhoc who met with some of the families in their commune on Wednesday, identified the three firms behind the ELCs as Daun Penh Agri Co., Hoa Anh Andong Meas and Hoa Anh Lumphat.

He said he reviewed photos of the alleged illegal logging taken by the families and would visit the area next week.

“I already sent a report to the Adhoc office in Phnom Penh so they can pass it on to the relevant government officials to investigate urgently,” he said.

Mr. Thy said the families also reported seeing plantation employees felling several species of lucrative, first-grade luxury wood trees and taking them back to their concessions for processing.

District governor Chhoeun Chanthean said the three ELCs cover about 15,000 hectares for growing rubber and palm oil trees. But he referred all questions about the alleged illegal logging to the environment department because the wildlife sanctuary was under its jurisdiction.

Provincial environment department chief Chou Sopheak said he did not know about the case and declined to comment.

Representatives for the firms could not be reached.

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