Villagers in Battambang’s Rokhakiri district have collected more than 300 thumbprints demanding the ouster of the Stuk Bravek commune chief they say sold and occupied their community forest.
After a fruitless protest last week against officials they claim illegally deforested the Prey Tralach forest, villagers began the petition drive, community representative Chrun Puth said.
“Within a few days, we managed to collect about 350 thumbprints to oust [commune chief] Ou Ieng from his position, because he has not helped us . . . he has helped the rich and powerful,” Puth said.
A number of political and military figures were accused of deforestation and seizing almost two-thirds of the protected 1,332-hectare forest.
The villagers called for the remaining 500 hectares to be left intact, but according to the villagers, the authorities instead destroyed dozens of makeshift dwellings they had constructed as guard posts.
Ieng was not available yesterday, but his wife, Tuk Sokny, denied the accusations. “The villagers who collected the thumbprints are the ones who cleared the forest. They are angry at my husband for stopping them from logging,” she said.