Officials Need To Prevent Logging: PM

Provincial governors must go on a war footing to prevent illegal clearing of forests, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday, adding that he did not believe that the top administrators in the provinces were ignorant of the destruction taking place.

“I don’t believe that you don’t know what’s happening in your own territory,” Hun Sen said in a speech at the Ministry of Agriculture’s annual conference.

“The big problem is that you do not do something. Or you know, but dare not do something. Or you are involved, and that’s why you dare not do something. The real power is with the governors,” he said.

“It is more difficult than fighting against the Khmer Rouge…. In the State of Cambodia, governors were com­manded to fight the Khmer Rouge. Now all governors must be re­sponsible in your respective territories,” he added.

Between 2004 and 2006, more than 260,000 hectares of forested state-owned land have been cleared and claimed by private individuals, Forestry Administration and Min­istry of Agriculture officials said this week.

Of the 264,802 hectares cleared, just 19,100 hectares have been re­claimed by the state, Minister of Ag­ri­culture Chan Sarun said in a re­port on the situation.

Ros Kannara, deputy chief of the legislation and litigation office at the Forestry Administration, said on Monday that provincial governors were not cooperating with his office.

“If they helped and cooperated strongly we would have success because forest land is not en­croach­ed on and cleared by the poor, it is the rich people and powerful officials,” he said.

Siem Reap Provincial Court last week issued an arrest warrant for Soeng Samrith, president of the little-known NGO Smile for the Dis­abled, for clearing 800 hectares of forested land in Anglong Veng commune, Oddar Meanchey provi­nce.

“I called him three times to ap­pear in court to clarify the destruction of the forest, but he did not present himself,” Investigating Judge Keo Chheng said on Tuesday.

Soeng Samrith planned to clear 1,200 hectares of forest, but was stop­ped by officials who arrested three accomplices, Keo Chheng said, adding that the three will be put on trial.


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