Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday called on soldiers to stop colluding with illegal timber traders and work with law enforcement officers to protect natural resources.
Hun Sen made the remarks as he presided over the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the headquarters of the Royal Cambodian Army in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district.
He urged soldiers to take part in forest, fishery and other natural resource preservation efforts.
In the speech, the prime minister referred back to a previous speech he gave when he inaugurated a military base in Preah Vihear province, where he told the soldiers: “I did not send you here to participate in logging.”
’Soldiers should not become loggers’
He added that “soldiers should not become loggers or protectors of illegal timber traders”, warning that those who violated the order by colluding with loggers will be punished.
“Soldiers must not tolerate any individuals who damage the honour and dignity of the army . . . The military should not make people unhappy, but instead help them when they are experiencing difficulties,” he said.
In response to the prime
minister’s remarks, a Mondulkiri-based forest activist Kreung Tola said he was doubtful that illegal logging would be completely stamped out.
He suggested that the government help people find and create markets for people to sell the Kingdom’s agricultural products legitimately so they don’t turn to logging to earn money, citing Vietnam and Thailand as examples of the success of this.
“If, for instance, I have coffee but I do not have the market to sell it, I may turn to illegal trading,” Tola said.
He also claimed that soldiers, police and forestry administration officials often engage in forestry crimes along the border.
“Nobody else has committed [the crimes] besides soldiers, police and forestry administration officials. Most people do not dare to do it,” he said, noting that he had personally witnessed members of these forces committing forest crimes.
Mao Samuon, a border affairs military unit official in Preah Vihear province, said he has taken an active role in preserving natural resources in the area around Preah Vihear temple.
“What the prime minister said is right. We must work together to safeguard our natural resources,” he said.