A protected forest and wildlife sanctuary in northern Cambodia’s Preah Vihear province has come under threat of illegal logging, with migrants to the area and soldiers clearing land and cutting down trees, sources say.
Local residents and activists are urging Cambodia’s government to help protect the 100,000 hectare (247,105 acre) Prey Preah Roka Protected Forest, community representative Pech Pon told RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday.
“Loggers are cutting down trees and selling them to saw mills,” Pech Pon said.
Also speaking to RFA, Cambodian NGO Ponlok Khmer officer Bek Sophoan confirmed that the wildlife sanctuary and forest preserve is now at risk.
The Prey Preah Roka preserve incorporates forest areas in three separate districts in the province, with the Chaom Khsant district most heavily affected by encroachment, Beck Sophoan said.
“We have seen soldiers from a unit in Chaom Khsant logging the forest,” he said, adding, “When they have cleared the forest, they confiscate the land.”
Civilian and military police officers stationed on the main roads have meanwhile refused to crack down on the offenders, instead extorting money from the loggers to let them go freely on their way, he said.
Community activists are now asking Cambodia’s government to enforce regulations protecting the threatened forest preserve, Pech Pon told RFA.
Cambodian forestry official Ith Phoura could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The seizure of land for logging or development—often without due process or fair compensation for displaced residents—has been a major cause of protest in Cambodia and other authoritarian Asian countries, including China and Myanmar.
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