Threats to Samlout's Environment and People
samlout Protected Area, the last remaining forested park with dense forest in Cambodia's northwest, has experienced a history of deforestation.Â Under the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979), government officials and soldiers negotiated deals with Thai logging firms to lease large plots of forests for commercial sale: dirt roads were carved out to access the park from both the Thai border and Cambodia's Pailin province. Although these roads still exist, much of the park is still thickly carpeted with a mosaic of tropical evergreen and deciduous forest. Unfortunately, trees from the forest in samlout are still in high demand for the construction and furniture industries in both Thailand and Cambodia.
It is very important to point out that the main cause for deforestation in Battambang and Pailin is conversion to agriculture land (for land speculation or 'real' farming). Firewood collection and charcoal making are only minor contributors to deforestation in the area.
Besides its trees and medicinal plants, samlout has other resources that attract local and international players. Historically this forest was rich with gems, but much of its wealth has already been extracted during the Cambodian civil war in the 1970s. Still, small groups of local villagers, soldiers, and illegal immigrants can be found inside the forest digging for rubies and sapphires. Today, the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy has also granted exploration permits to three foreign commercial mining companies (Korean, Australian and Russian) to extract gems from gem sites formerly operated by Thai gem miners. These mines have left gaping holes in the forests that will need landscaping in order for flora and fauna to repopulate.
The Ministry of Environment has given MJP the right to review all three gem mining companiesâ€™ operations and to ensure that they do not move beyond the already devastated areas. While the Korean and Australian companies have complied with government regulations, and have also agreed to re-landscape the areas upon completion, the Russian companies have not. MJP strongly opposes the Russian gem-mining operations, whose chosen site is located on virgin lands and inside samloutâ€™s core wildlife reserve. The Ministry of Environment and MJP are closely working together to prevent their mining operations from entering the park.
samlout continues to host a variety of endangered and vulnerable species such as the Asian elephant, Asiatic black bear, the Chinese pangolin, and the slow loris. MJP investigations continue to show that the wildlife trade is vibrant, in particular cross-border trade with Thailand. Intelligence gathered on wildlife crimes has also revealed that trade for human consumption is high in both in Pailin Town and samlout. Middlemen and traders act as a link between poachers and consumers, providing restaurant owners and traditional healers with animals such as pangolins, bears (for their bile), muntjac (deer), mouse deer and porcupine (see photos below which demonstrates the severity of the poaching in samlout).
Wildlife killed for food and traditional medicine were confiscated and burned