Authorities are investigating reports that approximately 100 cubic meters of rare wood was illegally transported from Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadaw district to Vietnam over the weekend, a forestry official said.
Villagers in Yatung commune reported that six trucks hauled the wood from two separate areas to Vietnam on Sunday night, said Chhai Ty, provincial activist for the local rights group Adhoc.
Provincial forestry administration chief You Kanvimean said authorities are investigating the report.
The Sunday incident is one of the latest in a general rise in illegal logging cases in O’Yadaw and Taveng district since June, he said, adding that many recent cases involved large groups of villagers.
Investigators have recently been met by violent protests when they attempt to verify claims of illegal logging, he said.
“Some people are continuing to log,” Mr Kanvimean said. “They are completely wrong because they have been committing forest crime and use weapons to prevent us from cracking down on the crime.”
Som Mok, a Taveng district councilor and former deputy district governor, said that previously there were only a few families who logged rare trees illegally but now whole communities are participating.
“About a week ago, we learned that almost the entire population in two communities in my district just go straight and cut down these kinds of rare trees to support their families,” he said.
He added that Taveng District Governor Nim Khoeur recently held a meeting with authorities, including police, military police and commune officials, to promote public awareness of the consequences of illegally logging rare trees.
Director General for the Ratanakkiri provincial office Khen Posy, said the rise in prices for the rare logs is the cause for the rise in illegal logging.
He added that education and not swift police action is ultimately going to be the best remedy to the problem.
“We will continue widespread public awareness [campaigns] for people to understand the punishment for committing forest crimes because it will not take only one day or two days to eliminate logging activities committed by local villagers,” he said.