Environmental officials in Pursat are questioning rangers over how a group of local journalists discovered nearly 100 logs of luxury timber inside a wildlife sanctuary.
After receiving a tip, the journalists, representing 24 small online media outlets, teamed up with five local policemen on Tuesday and Wednesday, finding four stockpiles of first-grade wood inside Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary in Veal Veng district’s Bramoy commune.
Theang Leng, Veal Veng district police chief, confirmed that five of his police officers joined the investigation, but maintained that they did not know the owner of the wood.
One of the online journalists, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the timber stockpiles were found about a kilometre away from a ranger sub-station in the sanctuary and that he believed environmental rangers were aware of the timber.
“They are controlling the place,” he said. “Why don’t they know?”
The journalist also alleged that environmental officials set checkpoints near the main road to collect money from timber haulers.
“If they did not give a green light, did not accept money, why would one dare to go there to transport timber?” he said.
Pan Morokort, the provincial director of the Environmental Department, said officials are investigating the case and have some clues, including the name of the company and a trader who may be linked, but declined to give more information.
“We are still investigating to know whether or not our officials colluded in the case,” Morokort said. “We are calling them in to question them one by one to gather evidence.”
Morokort added that an economic land concession belonging to oknha Try Pheap and a forest clearing near Stung Pursat I Hydro Dam reservoir are both nearby and that the wood could have come from one of those two places.