An environmental NGO staffer and four villagers were arrested and charged with extortion in Kratie on Tuesday for allegedly running a shakedown operation on illegal loggers.
Hean Chhivkun, Kratie provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that NGO worker Sem Kemsear, and four villagers – Reach Brokob, Thai Bun, Chan Thla and Lai Sengleang – were ostensibly working to crack down on illegal timber hauling in the area, but were instead extorting transporters.
According to Chhivkun, Forestry Administration officials on February 7 seized a van loaded with eight logs and 19 planks of wood from Kemsear, who had allegedly seized it himself late last year from transporter Seak Chhai, whom he had threatened with arrest.
The Forestry Administration questioned the suspects at the time, but they weren’t formally detained and charged until yesterday.
“The van and that timber was confiscated by Kemsear and four villagers at the end of 2016. But their crackdown was not authorised by local authorities, and they never reported the confiscation,” Chhivkun said.