Scale of Wildlife Sanctuary Destruction Denied

A rights worker and a forestry official on Thursday contradicted a local newspaper report claiming that more than $100 million worth of timber had been illegally extracted from Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary.

A large haul of logs was discovered last week on an economic land concession held by a Vietnamese rubber company, and two men are currently in pretrial detention after they were charged at the provincial court with illegal logging.

Adhoc’s provincial coordinator for Ratanakkiri, Chhay Thy, denied having said a total of 16,000 logs had been discovered in the area and also rejected the $100 million estimate of the logs’ worth. “I only said that the Provincial Forestry administration discovered more than 3,000 pieces of luxury wood,” Mr. Thy said. “I am not sure where this figure comes from,” he added, referring to the $100 million.

Phan Phoeun, deputy provincial Forestry Administration chief, declined to comment on the $100 million estimate. However, he said the only haul of timber he was aware of was found on April 18 and included 669 large luxury wood logs totaling 589 cubic meters.

Although the timber was discovered on a concession held by the Hua Anh rubber company, Mr. Phoeun said he did not believe the company was involved in logging.

Mr. Thy said he and 10 other Adhoc workers traveled to the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary on Wednesday and discovered that patches of the forest had been logged. “We do not know exactly how many trees were felled, but we saw 10 to 20 trees had been felled in five different areas,” he said, estimating that the trees were about 50 cm in diameter and 25- to 30-meters long.

He said 29 families who had relied on the trees for resin had told Adhoc staff that they had no choice in the felling of the trees, but were compensated by Hua Anh company as well as Fib Rubber, a Chinese rubber firm.

He said that every family in the area had been paid 8,000 riel, or about $2, per tree, and that between 300 and 700 trees had been destroyed so far.

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