PHNOM PENH —
Activists from four provinces have said that the largest intact lowland evergreen forest in Southeast Asia, Prey Lang, remains under threat because of poor law enforcement and rampant forest crimes.
The activists added that drug use around Prey Lang had also increased as illegal loggers often brought drugs into the areas where the operated.
Kha Sros of the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) said that while illegal logging had decreased, forest patrols had only managed to stem logging during the daytime.
“Before they would cut during the day. When we track them, they changed to do it at night,” she said. “We continue to patrol, because the forest is our life.”
Heoun Sopheap of the PLCN in Kampong Thom province, said sawmills were still in operation, despite a highly publicized anti-logging campaign led by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
A recent monitoring report on the status of the forest carried out by researchers from Copenhagen University found that despite the government declaring more than 430,000 hectares of Prey Lang into protected areas, the area remains at risk.
Majiken Schmidt Sogaard, one of the researchers, said they had found a significant increase in deforested land using a smartphone application.
Sao Sopheap, environment ministry spokesman, said the government was working with conservationists to prevent forest crimes, but admitted that its strategy had yet to see an end to illegal logging and forest clearance.
“Criminals do not care about the authorities. They seize every opportunity,” he said.