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Opposition Accuse Forestry Officials of Illegal Logging

Members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party are accusing forestry officials in Sandan town, Kampong Thom province, of illegal logging.

Forestry authorities were using confiscated villagers' saws and other tools to commit the crime, SRP provincial party member Sok Pheng said.

Logging nearly destroyed Cambodia's forest cover in the 1990s. A moratorium has been placed on legal logging, but that has not stopped some groups, usually backed by government officials, from cutting. Kampong Thom, which borders the Tonle Sap lake, is heavily forested.

Forestry officials refused the charges.

Sok Pheng said that in March forestry administration officials told villagers to surrender their saws to them, which they later used to log "day and night."

"A number of sites marked preserved for forest territory have been destroyed by the officials in charge, who have the governing power over forestry," he said. "I have evidence and photos related to the logging. I have the local villagers as witnesses."

Provincial forestry official Suos Sokun said he had confiscated saws and was storing them, but that he "did not destroy the forest as charged."