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Activists find illegal logging evidence in protected area in northern Cambodia

Forest protection activists found more than 200 fallen trees that had been illegally cut down in a vast protected area of northern Cambodia that showed signs of around-the-clock operations, transport trucks, motorcycles and armed security.

Activists with the Prey Lang Community Network for Preah Vihear province traveled through the area for four days and three nights in late March. 

Prime Minister Hun Sen has promised publicly that he would take action to prevent illegal logging in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, which covers land in Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Kampong Thom and Kratie provinces. 

He’s even blamed Cambodia’s poor in recent years for the country’s growing loss of forest cover. But activists have said that government authorities have done nothing to prevent supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party from illegally exporting timber to neighboring Vietnam, a major buyer of luxury hard wood.

A 2020 survey by researchers at Denmark’s University of Copenhagen showed that Cambodia had lost 26 percent of its tree cover, equivalent to about 5.7 million acres, since 2000, according to satellite imagery

Moving timber day and night

Activists told Radio Free Asia on Monday that logging transport trucks and motorcycles seen last month carried an identifying logo from the Phnom Penh-based Macle Logistics (Cambodia) Co., Ltd.

A Prey Lang community network member, Srey They, said the perpetrators brought wood out of the forest day and night in an area where forest crimes are on the rise. Groups of between five and 10 people – some of them armed – were seen cutting and transporting timber in Preah Vihear’s Rovieng district, he told RFA.

“It is very sad that the government has established the protected area, but there are still perpetrators of deforestation for companies,” Srey They said. 

Illegal logging continues in Cambodia because of compliant government officials, Cambodian Youth Network project coordinator Oath Latin said.

“This involves corruption between the timber traders, the perpetrators and the officers who are stationed around the Prey Lang checkpoint,” he said.

RFA was unable to contact the director of the Department of Environment, Song Chan Socheat, and the spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, Neth Pheaktra, on Monday, calling several times without an answer.

Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.