Gov’t Officials Inspect Logging in Samlot

samlot – A delegation of government officials arrived here on Fri­day to inspect alleged illegal logging and gem mining in the area, as part of a recent government crack­down on logging here and in Mondolkiri.

But officials stationed here de­nied any wrongdoing in the re­gion and instead focused on activity by a Thai company.

Sou Sameth, a one-star RCAF general who controls the Samlot area, maintained that no new trees have been cut in his region.

Some villagers and soldiers, however, use previously felled logs to build their houses or sell the logs to make money, said Keo Cham­roeun, deputy of the anti-logging committee for RCAF Mil­i­tary Region 5 in Battambang. And others illegally have exported roughly 200 cubic meters of trees to Thailand, he said.

Khun Haing, Minister of Par­li­a­men­tary Relations and In­spec­tions, which is in charge of investigating alleged government corruption, also said there was no proof of large scale illegal activity.

The delegation, from several different government ministries, planned the trip to Samlot after Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month ordered investigations here and in Mondolkiri pro­vince.

Mondolkiri’s governor, Chha­om Bun Khan, and first deputy go­vernor, Meas Thorng, both were suspended for allegedly allowing the transport of logs to Vietnam late last year.

Friday’s delegation also took a helicopter to Sen Chau pass, a road reportedly built by a Thai company for gem mining, to search for dubious logging practices and to inquire whether the Thai company was licensed by the Cambodian government. Sol­diers stationed there said the road was built in November, when the company began mining for gems.             On Friday, only a few Thai workers remained, leaving the delegation wondering whether the company was legitimate.

The delegation assured reporters that activity here would be fully studied and reports made.

Much of the recent illegal logging activity came to light after environmental watchdog Global Witness reported the Mondolkiri case to the government. Patrick Alley, a Global Witness director, however, recently suggested it might be “politically convenient” for the government to target areas where the ruling CPP doesn’t control.



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