Members of six ethnic communities in Mondulkiri’s Sen Monorom town yesterday accused local authorities of blocking their efforts to protect community and wildlife sanctuary forests, where they say luxury timbers are logged by Villas Development, a company co-owned by the wife of Mondulkiri Deputy Governor Yoem Luch.
Duong Ten, 36, a member of the Phnong ethnic minority in Sokdum commune, claimed yesterday that luxury woods in Lao Kar, Memong, Sre Eay, Sre Thom, Sre Thas and Pouchrey communities and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary are felled without any intervention from authorities, while locals are being forced to stop their own anti-logging efforts.
In February, Sen Monorom town authorities, with police and military police, attempted to force villagers to remove 11 hand-made anti-logging signs, but they refused, Ten said.
“None of the authorities pay attention to stopping forest logging, but those authorities [tried to] force us to remove all of the signs from the road,” he said.
Efforts to keep watch of the forests are also being hindered, Ten said, claiming that last week Chhit Sophal, provincial director of the environment department, tried to stop villagers from patrolling the area.
“Before we just patrolled, but the logging offences have grown, so we decided to sleep in the forest. We saw many [unofficial] trucks, but the on-duty environment officers ignore it.”
Another villager, Sroy Khet, agreed. “The logging is happening more and more. Only ethnic groups work to stop it, not the authorities.”
Deputy governor Yoem Luch rejected allegations Villas Development is involved in logging and timber transportation, claiming the company just plants rubber trees.
“Another company is responsible for the logging.”
Chhit Sophal, director of the provincial environmental department, said that restrictions are enforced to protect the villagers and the forest.
“Sometimes, they [villagers] burn down confiscated timber in the forest, and we asked them not to stay [there] at night. We are afraid someone will injure them and they will accuse us of this,” he said.