Five members of a local environmental NGO were among the eight arrested by Kratie provincial police yesterday for illegally logging luxury timber from Sambo district.
According to deputy district police chief Noy Sithach, five of the eight suspects were part of a group based in Sambo district called the Cambodian Citizens’ Rights and Environment Protection Organization.
The suspects were arrested in Kbal Damrey commune while attempting to transport their haul of luxury timber.
The five were identified as Sim Kimsrea, 27, Reach Prokorb, 40, Thai Leang, 26, Bun Chanthla, 19, and Lai Seng Hiep, 37.
“They were arrested by a mixed group of enforcement officers after they had chopped down luxury timber from the province’s protected areas and were attempting to transport the timber using cars to be sold in the province,” Mr. Sithach said.
“They were accused of illegal logging and transporting the timber without authorization,” he added.
He noted that the group was found trying to transport eight columns of luxury timber, 19 pieces of luxury-grade wood, five hook knives, three cars and other related material. The suspects were sent to the Kratie provincial police headquarters for further questioning.
The provincial court’s deputy public prosecutor Thouch Phanhchak Santepheap, who led the patrol and subsequent arrest yesterday, could not be reached for comment.
In January last year, the government announced a crackdown on illegal logging, starting with a ban of timber exports to Vietnam, a trade that had been supporting the illegal activity.
The government also formed a taskforce, with military police chief Sao Sokha at its helm, to combat the crime often perpetuated by the forest rangers and police officers hired to protect the forests.
However, one year on and NGOs claim that illegal logging is still rampant, despite the government insisting that “large-scale” illegal logging no longer existed in Cambodia.
Members of the Prey Lang Community Network said last month that recent patrols saw a 14 percent increase in illegal logging activity. They also said the loggers often knew when military police would be conducting patrols, making it easy to evade arrest.
Source: Khmer Times