As Timber Thins, Kratie Province Turns to Fish

The Cambodia Daily

koh khnhe, Kratie Province – Half the houses in this village are deserted. Pale dust from the dirt road coats staircases falling into disrepair. Scraps of wood beneath them weather. Tractors used to cart timber are slowly rusting.

“They’ve gone, all of them,” says Soung Sophy. “You drive your car here, you won’t meet people. There are just houses.”

“There’s no economy,” says Lut Sarim, 26, helping Mr. Sophy, also 26, load blocks of concrete onto a tractor for small repairs to their house. “Some people—they plant rice. Some plant jackfruit. Some don’t have jobs—like me, now.”

The middlemen who once bought luxury wood rarely visit anymore, say inhabitants of Koh Khnhe, a commune in the north of Kratie’s Sambor district, on the banks of the Mekong River. The sleepy rural area had seen a rush in the timber trade amid more than a decade of rampant deforestation, but the money dried up as the most valuable luxury wood grew scarce.

About 15 percent of the country’s forests were cut down during a 10-year period that ended in 2013, according to satellite data. The illegal logging continued afterward, exhausting district after district, moving into more and more remote corners of the northeast.

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