Thai loggers have established camps near Phnom Malai in the northwest and have been cutting and transporting logs over the border, two former Khmer Rouge soldiers said this week.
But several government officials and a Thai embassy official in Phnom Penh denied the illegal logging activity is occurring.
Prum Thoeun, a former Khmer Rouge commander, said Tuesday that about 100 Thai loggers, protected by Thai soldiers, erected camps in December in four different areas in Malai district.
“They have started cutting down trees” and transporting the logs at night, he said.
Prum Thoeun said local authorities were unable to push back the loggers, who he said are working about 3 km inside the border.
An RCAF commander, who defected from the Khmer Rouge in 1996, confirmed illegal activity is occurring despite a government crackdown instituted in January 1999. “Forty percent of illegal logging is still occurring here and the government’s order is not being honored,” said the commander who asked not to be named.
Hour Sareth, deputy director of military intelligence, said that he had heard trees in some uninhabited areas of Malai and Samlot districts were being cut, but he characterized the activity as clearing for farms by Thai residents.
In recent interviews, several residents of Malai also said that illegal logging activities have continued, but at least one market vendor indicated that the amount seemed to have decreased in recent months.
Both Forestry Director Ty Sokhun and Military Region 5 commander Bun Seng denied that any large scale illegal logging is occurring in the northwest provinces. Ty Sokhun said some villagers have sold timber across the border to “eke out a living.”
A Thai embassy official in Phnom Penh called the illegal-logging report “nonsense.”
In recent years, the Thais have received generally good marks for adhering to Cambodia’s log-export ban.