Environmental officials are taking steps to protect Phnom Kulen National Park in Siem Reap province, which increasingly is being threatened by illegal logging.
The Ministry of Environment has opened a park office, promising to crack down on offenders.
“If anyone encroaches on the land, they will be fined,” said Environment Minister Mok Mareth. He said a concrete map will be built in front of the park that clearly shows park boundaries.
The 37,500-hectare national park is designated as a protected area. It is one of a number of national parks under siege by illegal loggers in recent years.
Mok Mareth blamed the “alarming” illegal activity on “anarchic” armed forces, disabled people and farmers clearing trees. But another environmental official, who asked not to be named, said the highest-quality and biggest trees in the park have been chopped down by government forces stationed in the area.
That allegedly has been a problem at other national parks as well, including Bokor National Park in southern Cambodia.
Asked repeatedly about illegal logging in the national parks, Mok Mareth said quietly, “I have a serious headache right now when I talk about illegal logging.”
Mok Mareth has proposed stationing 2,000 government soldiers to protect parks.
A World Bank-funded consultant team proposed a multimillion-dollar armed forest ranger program.
Recently the environmental watchdog Global Witness urged Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and opposition leader Sam Rainsy to move quickly on forestry reform.