Monitors accused of complicity in logging

By: Phak Seangly

Officials charged with protecting Cambodia’s Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary are colluding with loggers responsible for felling at least 300 trees each day, according to activists in the area.
A member of the local community opposed to the activity – who asked not to be named for safety reasons – said villagers pay corrupt Environment Ministry officers about $37 per truckload of pchek timber harvested from the sanctuary in Battambang’s Samlot district. The timber is then apparently sold on the local market.

“Each day, at least four trucks take trees out. Each contains between 60 and 80 trees,” he said.

Speaking to the Post yesterday, Chan Socheat, an operations officer at NGO the Maddox Jolie Pitt Foundation (MJP), confirmed the claims.

“I witness [the logging] while I am patrolling,” he said. “The logging happens when the environment officials stand alone there.”

In March, the MJP – which works to fight rural poverty and preserve wildlife in Cambodia – reported that between 40 and 80 tonnes of charcoal produced from trees illegally felled in the sanctuary had been exported to Thailand over the previous year.

When confronted with the claims, one local environmental officer admitted the logging was taking place but denied being corrupt. Instead, Nov Ouk claimed resources were simply too limited to effectively counter the illicit activity.

“We have no means to patrol,” he said. “I only come to the station, and I return home for meals.