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Conservationists ask minister to take action

A group of conservationists in Kratie province submitted on Friday a formal request asking Defence Minister Tea Banh to discipline two Kratie-based military commanders. They accuse the officers of profiting from illegal logging and threatening to kill an activist should he continue his work.

Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization (NRWPO), sent a letter to Banh on Friday claiming that high-ranking officers Tuy Teuy and Toung Hok were collecting bribes from illegal timber transporters, and that they had threatened to murder NRWPO activist Yim That and cover it up if he ever returned to the forest to investigate logging.

“The military commanders detained my staff for four hours for interrogation, and threatened that if he dared to enter again, they would shoot him dead and claim it was a robbery,” he said.

According to Hean’s letter, the group had been tipped off about logging in a protected forest in Kbal Damrei commune, in Kratie’s Sambor district. Hean accused the military officials of setting up checkpoints where they would extract hefty payments from those transporting illegal logs and logging equipment.

Klek Klok village chief Touch San, who accompanied That to investigate last week, corroborated Hean’s accusations, saying the logging had gone on for three years now.

“The people who are loggers have to pay $50 per month to the local military,” he said, adding that there were “many chainsaws” hidden in the forest there.

Kbal Damrei commune police chief Ngem Sok said yesterday that NRWPO had requested that an officer follow them on their forest inspection, but he didn’t send anyone as his superiors did not approve.

An administration official at the Defence Ministry, who declined to be named said he had received Chea Hean’s letter and was forwarding it to his superiors.

Contact details for the two officials accused in the letter could not be obtained yesterday.

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