Park Officials Intend to Force Clandestine Loggers to Pay Fines

Environmental officials say they will try a new tactic to curb illegal logging in Bokor and Kir­irom national parks. They want to make the culprits pay for the trees.

Acting Conservation Director Chay Samith said Thursday that bringing illegal loggers to court is essential for saving the parks from logging. He said the Min­istry of Environment now has enough evi­dence to file complaints agai­nst illegal loggers in provincial courts in Kampot and Kompong Speu.

“We have enough proof and know who they are,” he said. ‘‘This is a good measure to punish illegal loggers.”

Chay Samith said about 500 hectares of land at Bokor have been cleared since August to enlarge rambutan, durian and pineapple farms. In Kirirom, in Kompong Speu province, about 50 hectares were illegally cut last month, he said.

Chay Samith and other environmental officials toured Bokor, in the southern province of Kampot, last week with Interior Ministry officials. He claimed that about 30 armed men and businessmen are behind the illegal cutting, and expressed hope the courts would impose fines that would be equivalent to the cost of the trees.

About 40 people are involved in cutting in Kirirom, he added.

“If illegal loggers are allowed to escape punishment, it will be a bad example,” he said, adding that the ministry’s lawyers have prepared the necessary court papers.

Chay Samith said illegal logging stopped in Bokor at the end of October following pressure from the Interior Ministry.

Kampot police Chief Seng Sok­hun on Thursday acknowledged that a few of his policemen and many residents are involved in illegal activities.

“Now, they stopped enlarging their farms following an order from National Police Director [Hok Lundy],” he said.

The Kampot chief welcomed steps to bring the illegal loggers to court, but doubted their effectiveness. “It is the rights of the environmental officials to file a complaint,” he said ‘‘It is up to them.”

Seng Sokhun said that illegal activities at Bokor have risen because the environmental officials have not cooperated with the local authorities.

Illegal logging at the 140,000-hectare park increased after the EC-funded Support Program to the Environmental Sector in Cam­bodia, or SPEC, ended its $600,000 management project in August, the environmental official added.




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