Joint forces shut down 16 illegal sawmills in Cambodia

Joint forces in Stung Treng province have temporarily shut down 16 timber processing facilities on Tuesday after an inspection revealed they did not have proper permits.

The joint forces comprised of forestry officials, environmental officials, police officers and Military Police officials. It was led by provincial Military Police chief Ieng Vandy, working in cooperation with Stung Treng provincial deputy prosecutor Sin Raksa.

They inspected 23 timber processing facilities and found 16 of them operating illegally. Their owners signed a contract to close down temporarily and the authorities seized some timber to store at the provincial Forestry Administration.

Stung Treng provincial hall spokesman Men Kong told The Post on Wednesday that no arrests were made, as none of the facilities was found to have damaged forest resources.

They were merely shut down for having processed and stored forest products without the proper permits from local authorities, he said, adding that he did not know how much timber was seized.

“We haven’t taken any action against any of the facilities’ owners yet. We will merely follow the instructions of the provincial committee, which in a meeting decided to launch the investigation as a preliminary step.

“If [the committee] orders them to desist and obtain a permit under the law, but they continue to operate without one anyway, then [they] will be held responsible before the law,” said Kong.

Vandy, provincial Forestry Administration official Orn Chansocheat and provincial Department of Environment director Eng Phyrong all declined to provide further information and referred questions to National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crime spokesman Eng Hy.

But Hy said he could not comment as he had not received the report on the facilities’ closure.

The inspection comes a day after the Stung Treng provincial administration issued a press release on Monday to express their commitment to enforcing laws – including forestry law – in a strict manner to crack down and prevent all kinds of natural resource crimes.

Meanwhile, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc Hou Sam Ol hailed the crackdown.

“We want these crackdowns to continue regularly, and not just be a one-off thing,” said Sam Ol.