Task Force for Illegal Logging Begins Sending Cases to Court

An ad hoc task force set up by Prime Minister Hun Sun last month to go after illegal timber stocks in eastern Cambodia has started sending cases to the pro­vincial courts for prosecution, Na­tional Police spokesman Eng Hy said on Monday.

Police and Forestry Admin­is­tra­tion officials have been combing through piles of logs inside ware­houses, on rubber plantations and in forests across the eastern prov­inces since the prime min­ister an­nounced the task force’s creation on Jan­uary 15.

Brigadier General Hy refused to say how much illegally logged or stockpiled wood authorities had found but said they were done taking inventory of the timber in Tbong Khmum and Kratie prov­inces, and in most of Mon­dol­kiri. The task force is also at work in the prov­inces of Preah Vi­hear, Ra­ta­na­k­kiri and Stung Treng.

“We have finished measuring the wood in some places in those prov­inces, and our task force has sent documents to the court prosecutors to take action in accordance with the law,” he said. “The provincial court prosecutors will look at the documents, and they can summon any oknhas or companies that are involved for questioning. I can’t comment any more because the cases are in the hands of the prosecutors.”

Oknha is an honorific bestowed on wealthy businessmen who have donated at least $100,000 to the state.

Brig. Gen. Hy said the task force was expected to finish measuring all the timber it had found by the start of Khmer New Year in mid-April.

He said the task force had also identified 217 privately owned trucks that it believes are being used to transport illegally logged wood and would soon begin im­pounding the vehicles. He said au­thorities had not witnessed the trucks ferrying wood but were con­vinced of their illicit purpose, noting that their design makes them impractical for anything else.

Environmental protection groups say the government itself is heavily involved in the country’s rampant illegal logging trade, either directly or by colluding with private timber traders. They say past crackdowns an­nounced by the government have done little, if anything, to curb the trade and remain skeptical that the latest drive will lead to better results.

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