Three Suspected Loggers Face Court Date

Three suspected loggers will be summoned to court in Ban­teay Meanchey province at the end of this month for allegedly felling trees in protected areas, authorities said.

Provincial judge Kep Soeun said Tuesday the suspected loggers will appear in court Sept 30.

“Illegal loggers must be brought to court, or else the forest will be gone,” Kep Soeun said.

Provincial environment officials filed a complaint with the court in July, after a chainsaw and timber were allegedly confiscated from the three men in a wildlife sanctuary in June.

The logging occurred in Tuol Pongro commune, Malai district. The judge said an earlier trial was scheduled for the men, but it was postponed to collect evidence.

In the past, people in the area have been asked to sign contracts agreeing to stop cutting trees in the nature reserve, but in most cases those were simple villagers—whereas these three suspects appear to be connected to the timber business, provincial environment officials said.

The 178,750-hectare Roniem Daun Sam wildlife sanctuary has been protected by royal decree since 1993. But it lies in Cambo­dia’s formerly violent northwest, with two-thirds of the land in Battambang province and one-third in Banteay Meanchey.

The environmental officials said much of the protected area suffered during the armed conflicts that persisted in the northwest through the late 1990s. Roniem Daun Sam was under Khmer Rouge control until 1996.

In June 2001, at an inauguration ceremony for the nature reserve’s new headquarters, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng estimated that half of the forest wildlife habitat that once existed in the sanctuary had disappeared.

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