Officials tackle forestry crimes

Source: Khmer Times

Authorities often seized evidence of logging crimes but failed to arrest smugglers.

There were 1,428 forestry and wildlife crimes in 2017, with 778 cases ending up in court and the remaining 650 cases leading to administrative fines.

According to the annual report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the cases included illegal logging, the cutting of forest to seize land, and offences related to the bush meat trade.

The report said the ministry confiscated almost 8,755 cubic metres of wood, including 63 cubic metres of rosewood.

Officials also confiscated 2,248 kilograms of bushmeat and seized 4,115 animals.

The ministry collected more than $6 million in revenue from public services, fines and profits from selling confiscated timber, the report added.

                     Forest crime crackdown: Almost 1,500 cases against illegal loggers and wildlife traders.

 

“The ministry urges public bidding for timber confiscated by the court and the transaction of administrative fines, and enhanced compliance with the forestry law,” it said.

Ouch Leng, environmental activist and president of the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force, said authorities too often seized evidence in logging crimes but failed to arrest smugglers.

“The amount of revenue they have generated is small in comparison to the business that loggers do with Vietnam and China,” he said.

“The government is failing to take action against the logging trade with Vietnam and China. If they don’t do something to stop wood being smuggled to Vietnam and China, Cambodia’s forests will be completely destroyed.”

Last year, a damning report by a UK and US-based NGO alleged that systemic bribery in Cambodia and Vietnam was enabling wood logged in Ratanakkiri’s protected forests to be smuggled over the border.

Between November 2016 and March 2017, the Environmental Investigation Agency found that 300,000 cubic metres of wood were harvested on an “unprecedented scale” from two national parks and one wildlife sanctuary before being smuggled to Vietnam.

Speaking at the 2nd National Forum on Protection and Conservation of Natural Resources in Phnom Penh in August, Prime Minister Hun Sen denounced loggers and reminded his officials to improve efficiency of forest crime prevention.

“I hate people who cut down trees because cutting down trees is equal to cutting off my head,” he said.

In August, the Environment Ministry issued a press release showing that preliminary results of Cambodia’s forest cover review in 2016 demonstrated that the total area of forest cover in Cambodia accounted for 45.26 percent of the country’s total area.

The loss of forest cover in Cambodia decreased between 2014 and 2016, with a loss rate of 0.82 percent annually. However, between 2010 and 2014, the loss rate was approximately 2.7 percent.

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