A group of activists in northwestern Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey province said Tuesday that their forest is under threat from illegal loggers in neighboring provinces and could be completely cleared within months if authorities do not step in to deal with the problem.
The activists from local conservation group Forest Protection Community said that around 6,300 hectares (15,570 acres) of forest in Anlong Veng district face destruction as loggers clear the area to build plantations.
“Several hundred people are cutting down the forest daily,” community director Sa Tlai told RFA’s Khmer Service, adding that the loggers from neighboring Siem Reap, Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham provinces had “already cleared a few hundred hectares of forest already.”
Sa Tlai said that his group had asked district authorities to take action against local corruption, which it alleges has enabled the illegal logging, and called on forestry administration officials to prevent trespassing in the forest areas, but received no response.
He said Forest Protection Community would dispatch its own staff members to patrol the forest for loggers, as local authorities had ignored the group’s repeated requests.
Another community leader named Hem Hong told RFA that while illegal logging had only begun two to three months earlier, the forest had been “seriously affected,” noting that one recently arrived logger had cut down at least 10 hectares (25 acres) of timber on his own.
“If local authorities continue to ignore the problem, within two or three more months more, the forest will be totally destroyed,” he said.
Oddar Meanchey Forestry Administration director Teang Davuth told RFA he is “aware” of the logging.
He said that he sent forestry officials to stop logging several times, but they were outnumbered by the loggers, adding that his department plans to dispatch a task force which includes police and military personnel to tackle the problem in the future.
“We will dispatch a task force to crack down on illegal logging that is destroying the community forest,” he said.
Stung Treng logging
Concerns over the Anlong Veng forest comes less than a week after indigenous villagers in northeastern Cambodia’s Stung Treng province called on local forestry officials to crackdown on illegal saw mills and to provide them with protection after they received death threats from unsanctioned loggers of luxury timber.
The villagers in Stung Treng’s Sesan district received threats from the loggers after they warned authorities that three illegal mills in the area would destroy the local forest and its resources if they weren’t shut down.
Local authorities refused to raid the mills, however, prompting the group to sign a petition calling for action.
The provincial coordinator of local rights Adhoc told RFA at the time that the prospect of earning money through illegal saw mills was driving the practice of illicit logging in the region.
Reported by Hang Savyouth for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.