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Samlot Residents Report Widespread Illegal Logging

Environment Ministry and military officials in a former Khmer Rouge stronghold are stripping the forests of luxury hardwood, a local official told VOA Khmer Thursday.

Government forces are giving logging businesses free rein to strip the forests in Samlot district, Battambang province, the official, who asked not to be identified, said.

"Those involved in the luxury wood trade are high-ranking officials, those at the border, those soldiers, police and military police and their networks," said the local official. "They allow traders to do their business with no arrests. They are paid."

Cambodia has seen relentless logging of its pristine forests over the years. Much of the money goes to a small circle of politicians and business owners with close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen, a report by the monitoring group Global Witness says.

A Samlot official Thursday denied allegations illegal loggers were operating in his area.

"If I said no, you would not believe me," said Samlot District Chief Hem Sophal. "So you don't have to believe either me or the informants, you'd better come and see for yourself with your own eyes."