The Forestry Administration chief for Ratanakkiri province was removed from his post yesterday in what an official called the first move in a reshuffling of administration personnel to better manage the country’s forests.
Forestry Administration spokesman Thun Sarath confirmed the removal of You Kanvimean yesterday. Though he declined to give any names, he said other administration officials would soon follow “as part of the government’s administration structural reform.”
“Of course, it’s a reform to improve and protect the forest coverage area,” he said.
Mr Sarath said the government had yet to find a new position for Mr Kanvimean, who would be replaced by Vong Sok Serei, the deputy chief in Stung Treng province.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 6 announced the removal of Forestry Administration Director-General Ty Sokhun who the premier said had failed to curtail illegal logging. The reshuffle comes amid a nationwide crackdown on the illicit timber trade.
Mr Sarath would acknowledge no connection between either the crackdown or Mr Sokhun’s removal and the Forestry Administration’s latest “structural reform.”
Contacted by telephone, Mr Kanvimean rejected the suggestion that his departure from Ratanakkiri had anything to do with poor job performance.
“Actually, the removal is a part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s rotation work,” he said. “The rotation is to help local officials as well as myself acquire new experiences.”
Mr Kanvimean said he had been moved to the administration’s headquarters in Phnom Penh but did not yet know what his new role would be.
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Ratanakkiri, welcomed Mr Kanvimean’s departure as part of the recent crackdown.
“I am proud that the government has the strong will to take such action,” he said.
Even so, Mr Bonnar said the move was too little and too late to stop the province’s deforestation, as most of its trees have already disappeared.
“I can say it is absolutely too late,” he said. “The scale of deforestation is too big.”
To protect what is left, Mr Bonnar urged the government to pursue its crackdown through the courts.
“The loss of natural resources and the destruction of forests is too serious,” he said. “The government should take legal action, as the state has done on several senior leaders in the province for the logging and deforestation in the Dragon’s Tail.”
Mr Bonnar was referring to a section of Virachey National Park and the 2006 conviction of former provincial police chief Yoeung Baloung in the illegal logging and smuggling of thousands of trees to Vietnam. Though several other government officials were convicted along with Mr Baloung, some of them, including former provincial governor Kham Khoeun, remain at large.