Officials Vow To Save Park From Logging

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.



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