Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday again called upon military officers to protect Cambodia’s natural resources and refrain from illegal logging, adding the army should also help prevent illegal loggers in Oddar Meanchey province from entering into Thailand to cut timber.
Speaking at the inauguration of RCAF Division 3’s new headquarters in Preah Vihear province, Mr Hun Sen said soldiers should preserve forests in the area where they are stationed, while the army’s policies should include “protecting natural resources and call on the military officers to lend a hand in cracking down on luxury wood smugglers.”
“[A]ll soldiers must participate in cracking down on lawbreakers, including their own commanders who do wrong,” he said.
The premier said the army should help stop the influx of illegal loggers from Oddar Meanchey into Thailand, which has recently led to a string of incidents in which Thai border forces shot and killed several villagers.
“[We] must try to stop the people who go into Thai territory for logging, so find out who are the [loggers’] leaders in Traipaing Prasat,” he said referring to one of the province’s border districts.
RCAF Division 3 Commander Major-General Srey Dek said yesterday he welcomed Mr Hun Sen’s remarks, before adding there was no illegal logging by soldiers in his region. “This is a good thing…. Samdech’s order to protect and preserve the environment,” he said.
Oddar Meanchey Provincial Governor Pich Sokhin said he was pleased with the premier’s instructions to RCAF. “His order is a good order,” he said, adding, “We are working to find the [loggers’] leaders.”
Emily Woodfield, country director of conservation NGO Flora and Fauna International, welcomed Hun Sen’s remarks as she said the military was involved in illegal logging in parts of Cambodia, adding however, she did not have proof that this occurred.
“[T]he prime minister’s remarks acknowledge this is a problem,” she said, adding, “there is illegal logging taking place that the prime minister could help to prevent.”
(Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze)