Thu, Feb 01, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Three gunned down on Cambodian forest patrol

AFP, PHNOM PENH

Three Cambodians patrolling a protected forest in the remote east were gunned down after seizing a chainsaw from illegal loggers, authorities said yesterday, in violence highlighting the murky world of the nation’s timber trade.

A military officer, a park ranger and an employee of prominent non-governmental organization, the Wildlife Conservation Society, were shot dead on Tuesday as they were leaving Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri Province, national police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said.

He said police suspected Cambodian border forces, who were assigned to investigate a stolen chainsaw, were responsible for the killings.

“We suspect it was them who fired” on the group, Kirth Chantharith said, declining to elaborate further.

Authorities are still investigating the incident and searching for suspects, he added.

Keo Sopheak, the head of Mondulkiri’s environmental department, confirmed the deaths and said the group was killed about 5km away from where they seized the chainsaw from eight loggers.

Illegal logging is rampant in Cambodia, with demand for rare wood in China and Vietnam driving rapid deforestation that has plundered a quarter of the nation’s forests in a generation.

Cambodia’s forest cover has fallen from 73 percent in 1990 to 46 percent in 2013, according to the UN.

The illicit timber trade thrives on weak rule of law in remote areas and with pliant officials, some of whom are employed by illegal loggers for protection, but forests are also under threat from government-approved clearance deals.

In 2015, a forest ranger and a police officer who were investigating illegal logging in Cambodia were killed and at least 10 people, including a soldier, were arrested over the murders.

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