Commission to Save Natural Resources

Source: Khmer Times

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Officials remove illegal fishing nets from a waterway to allaow fish stocks to recover. Supplied

The government created a national commission last week to prevent and crack down on crimes involving natural resources.

National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha will head the commission and Hou Sakun, the deputy commissioner general of the National Police, will be second in command.

Environment Ministry and Secretary of State Phay Bun Chhoeun and Agriculture Ministry Secretary of State Has Sareth along with 25 provincial and city governors were named as members of the commission.

It will be responsible for preventing and cracking down on offenses including logging, illegal wood transport, illegal wood export, wildlife hunting, illegal wildlife exports, deforestation to grab state land and illegal mining.

The commission will also be responsible for investigating and searching for the perpetrators and people associated with the offenses by arresting offenders, confiscating evidence and preparing court cases.

“The commission has to cooperate with Vietnam, Laos and Thailand to prevent and crack down on natural resources offenses effectively if necessary,” the announcement stated.

Environment Minister Say Samal sent a letter with the same content requesting that 21 provincial governors monitor and take action to prevent natural resource crimes in their provinces, especially in protected areas in the upcoming dry season.

He said that crimes involving natural resources always happens more in the dry season despite the government having launched a series of measures to strengthen the management of natural resources in the country.

“Strict action by provincial commanders to tighten criminal law enforcement on natural resources will increase trust and reduce criticism from the public as well as civil society organizations on the leadership of the government,” he said.

Thon Ratha, an activist for the NGO Mother Nature, applauded the creation of the commission, but still expressed concern over the potential loss of natural resources.

“In the past, there were also recommendations or orders from the government and a decree to prevent and crack down on those offenses, but obviously, we still saw a loss of forest and wildlife exports, hunting and illegal mining still occurred,” he said.

He added that the government should strictly enforce the law to protect the country’s natural resources and punish the perpetrators and officials who let the same offenses occur time and again.

Mr. Ratha said authorities should listen to the advice of civil society groups and other relevant people to ensure the commission’s effectiveness.

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