Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday told provincial governors to take responsibility for curbing forestry crimes in their respective provinces and scolded officials who blame one another when illegal logging is uncovered.
“Forest issues are a serious problem that require you to respond, and you cannot blame each other,” Mr. Hun Sen said at the Agriculture Ministry’s annual meeting at the National Education Institute in Phnom Penh.
The prime minister said that last year, he ordered all forestry and fishery divisions placed under the control of provincial authorities, who are ultimately responsible for making sure local officials do their jobs.
“If it were…drugs, it would [be] difficult to make arrests,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “They hide drugs in their pockets, but timber, they transport on trucks and we have millions of eyes.”
“Where have your eyes gone? Why do you allow the transport of timber? It destroys the forest and destroys roads,” he added.
The prime minister also told the Agriculture Ministry that when it takes back economic land concessions from companies that have violated their contracts with the government, they should require the companies to reimburse the state for any deforestation that occurred on their land.
“If we just take the land back, it is not worth enough because they destroyed it,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“On some land, they did nothing but cut timber and you let them go free…. [We] need them to pay,” he said, adding that companies who have had their concessions revoked should also be fined if they felled trees outside the boundaries of their concessions.