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Locals keep up protest for jailed woman

Villagers from Preah Sihanouk province yesterday again protested the ongoing imprisonment of a local woman arrested for illegal forest clearing, claiming local authorities often allow illegal logging and are using her as a scapegoat.

The woman, Em Kunthea, 34, was arrested on Monday for allegedly clearing land in the Kbal Chhay forest. Fifty villagers took to the streets to protest, blocking National Road 4 and demanding her release. Kunthea’s husband, Pov Veasna, yesterday said his wife remained in jail.

Sov Makara, one of the villagers protesting Kunthea’s imprisonment yesterday, said: “Sometimes the local authorities cooperate with businesses to clear the forest, but now they put the blame on a villager.”

Environmental activist Seng Sok Heng, agreed, saying local authorities were punishing Kunthea because “they dare not intervene with the people who are powerful”.

He said Kunthea’s arrest could be a response to the prime minister’s demand for stricter forestry protection but added that arresting villagers is “not an effective way of stopping illegal logging”.

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