Cambodian PM tells troops to fire rockets at illegal loggers

Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia listens to U.S. President Barack Obama speak during a 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Rancho Mirage, California February 15, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia’s prime minister on Thursday called for a bigger effort to curb illicit timber trade, saying he had ordered military police to fire rockets from helicopters if they saw illegal loggers at work.

Hun Sen created a task force in January led by National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha to raid timber warehouses and tackle the deforestation that is fuelling a multi-million dollar illegal trade.

“I already gave two helicopters for raids and Sao Sokha has not fired a single rocket yet,” the prime minister said in a televised speech. “I order that rockets be fired from above.”

An investigation last year by environment group Global Witness said Chinese demand for luxury rosewood furniture was fuelling a black-market trade in illegal logs across Cambodia.

It alleged loggers were working in cahoots with government officials, military and police to get logs onto boats bound for Hong Kong.

Hun Sen, who was speaking at the inauguration of a new environment ministry building, said he had suspected that too.

“Where have all your eyes gone?” he asked. “The eyes of the police, the military police ... or are they involved?”

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez