Ministry Claims Logging Crackdown a Success

The Forestry Administration is fol­lowing the government’s policy by actively hunting down and des­troy­ing logging operations, Ag­ri­cul­ture Minister Chan Sarun wrote in a letter to the National As­sem­bly last week.

In the Aug 10 letter, the minister wrote that the Forestry Ad­mi­n­is­tra­tion is following the government’s policy on illegal logging and has scored successes against il­legal logging operations.

In addition, environmental NGO Global Witness’ most recent re­port alleging top officials are in­volved in illegal logging in the Au­r­al Wildlife Sanctuary in Kompong Speu province is wrong, Chan Sa­run wrote to National Assembly Sec­retary-General Kim San.

“For the first five months of the year, the Forestry Administration at all levels has cracked down on for­estry and wildlife offenses,” he wrote.

He said 540 logs had been seized, 48 sawmills and 15 wood pro­ces­sing plants destroyed and 75 people arrested and sent to the court.

“Due to the above result, it shows that the crackdown at all levels is still continuing with the gov­ernment policy, not as some newspapers have published,” Chan Sarun added.

The biggest operation was a crackdown in Aural Wildlife San­c­tu­ary in March in which 63 RCAF soldiers dropped out of two helicopters and destroyed numerous sawmills and other equipment, Chan Sarun wrote.

The raid was prompted by a com­plaint from RCAF Joint Chief of Staff General Meas Sophea about anarchic logging in Kom­pong Speu. Three forestry officials and three police officers were trans­ferred “for not fulfilling their duties,” the letter said. No arrests were made.

In November, Global Witness re­­­­leased a report focusing on logging operations within the sanctuary, implicating top officials including military, police and forestry ad­min­istration officials working in the area.

Since February, 20,000 copies of a Global Witness report have not been allowed through customs at Phnom Penh International Airport un­der orders from Information Min­­ister Khieu Kanharith who said the government wasn’t given a chance to respond and that the in­­formation is already available on the Internet.

Mike Davis of Global Witness said despite Chan Sarun’s positive message, there is little indication that any real action has been tak­en to crack down on illegal log­ging by going after those officials behind the operations.

“It sounds like they’re not claim­ing any major breakthrough on prosecution, rather this is a superficial form of law enforcement,” he said Sunday.

“We don’t see any signs [of the illegal logging industry] changing anywhere at all around the country,” he said.

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