An official delegation led by the head of the nation’s illegal logging task force found hundreds of felled trees inside protected forest areas in Pursat province on Tuesday, officials said.
National Military Police chief General Sao Sokha, who heads the task force, and more than 100 national and provincial officials went to inspect the scene, said Eng Hy, the task force spokesman.
“We went deep into the forest in Veal Veng district to investigate the forest crime and we saw that hundreds of trees were recently logged,” Brigadier General Hy said.
“We also saw people transporting wood with ox-carts from the protected forest…and we stopped them and educated them not to commit the crime again,” he said.
The illegal logging task force was established in January last year to crack down on the country’s rampant illicit timber trade. Though officials have claimed success in stopping illegal logging and timber exports, many have said the trade has slowed only marginally, if at all.
Brig. Gen. Hy said on Tuesday that experts from the Forestry Administration were working to measure and count the logs discovered in Veal Veng and would draft a report.
“We have taken action many times against illegal logging and transporting wood from the forest, but the crimes are still continuing,” he said.
Local authorities had reported villagers clearing protected land for farming, he added.
Provincial governor Mao Thanin, who also visited the area, said the group did not see any loggers in the forest, but the felled trees appeared to have been cut down a few days prior.
“We are very concerned about state forest land because we saw that some plots had been cleared by people to take the land and expand their farmland,” he said.
Provincial military police chief Ouk Samon, another official who joined the delegation, identified the timber as second-grade Khlong and Tbeng wood.