Local Officials Join Crackdown on Logging

Siem Reap provincial forestry officials in recent weeks have ordered local authorities to crack down on illegal logging, while their counterparts in Kompong Speu province destroyed several sawmills located outside the Oral Wildlife Sanctuary in Phnom Sruoch district, officials said.

Van Sophana, deputy director of Siem Reap’s Department of Agriculture, said Monday that provincial officials have been canvassing Svay Leu, Chikreng, Va­rin and Angkor Chum districts, so­liciting the assistance of commune and village officials in their efforts to stop illegal logging.

He said that taking their fight to the local level should increase its ef­­fectiveness. So far, village chiefs have helped by fingering loggers in their areas, particularly those who own chainsaws, he said.

Van Sophana said forestry officials soon will approach those loggers individually, asking them to hand over their chainsaws and to sign contracts to cease logging.

So far, provincial forestry officials have had some success stopping trucks at roadblocks and confiscating logs and planks, often concealed under loads of cement, Van Sophana said.

Soeung Bunthoeurn, director of Kompong Speu’s Department of Environment, said Monday about 80 chainsaws and 20 saw­mills are operating illegally within the Oral Wildlife Sanctuary.

He complained that most of the loggers in the area, which was Khmer Rouge territory until the late 1990s, carry guns and stand down his foresters. “It is quite hard to face the armed men cutting down trees in the sanctuary,” Soeung Bunthoeurn said.

RCAF soldiers were seen Friday loading sawed timber onto military trucks inside the protected area. Soeung Bunthoeurn said most illegal logging in his prov­ince occurs in the Oral Wild­life Sanctuary and surrounding areas in Thpong and Phnom Sruoch districts.

Last week, Kompong Speu forestry officials raided and destroyed two illegal sawmills in Phnom Sruoch district, Soeung Bunthoeurn said. Nonetheless, an environmental official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Monday that about six truckloads of timber make their way into Phnom Penh nightly, despite area forestry officials being fully aware of them.


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