With Crackdown, R’kiri Logging March Postponed

An annual Ratanakkiri province march against illegal logging held by the human rights group Adhoc has been postponed this year due to the government’s recent crackdown on forest crimes, the group’s provincial coordinator, Pen Bonnar, said yesterday.

The march was scheduled for today but Mr Bonnar said he canceled it after reaching an agreement with the provincial Cabinet chief Nap Bun Heng.

“He suggested that we don’t march because the government and provincial authorities at all levels are working hard to eliminate deforestation and land encroachment, especially with the recent approval of the anticorruption law,” he said.

“We have a mutual understanding…which is why I agreed not to march tomorrow. One of the most important reasons why I decided to temporary cancel the march is that we’ve all seen the recent removal of the Forestry Administration chief.”

The Administration’s chief in Ratanakkiri province, You Kanvimean, was removed from his post last week in a move officials said was unrelated to the April 6 removal of Ty Sokhun, the administration’s director-general who Prime Minister Hun Sen said had failed to curtail illegal logging.

The reshuffle came amid a nationwide crackdown on the illicit timber trade that began in mid-March.

Mr Bonnar emphasized that Adhoc would reschedule the march for another date if officials involved in illegal logging were not prosecuted in a timely fashion. Mr Bun Heng, the Cabinet chief, said yesterday that Adhoc had not been banned from marching but had been advised against it.

“Adhoc has done the same march annually, so the reason for marching is not a new one, which is why we suggested to them that they cancel it and let us work out the elimination of [forest] crimes,” he said.

Authorities at every level of the Ratanakkiri provincial government are serious about stopping illegal logging, Mr Bun Heng added.

Sven Vev, a Tumpoun minority representative from Lumphat district who attended yesterday’s workshop, questioned why there have been no prosecutions of officials involved in illegal logging.

“I am really disappointed that no officials involved in logging luxury woods have been captured for prosecution,” he said.

 

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