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One logging standoff, two differing accounts

Soldiers allegedly protecting an illegal logging operation in Oddar Meanchey threatened to shoot a group of forest patrollers that stumbled across their logging site on Sunday, Rattanak Rokha community forest patrol leader Chea Chuong said yesterday, though an RCAF commander denied the account.

Chuong said yesterday that three members of a local patrol of villagers stumbled across three tractors loaded with more than 20 planks of wood on Sunday. The patrol attempted to confiscate the wood from a family of three who appeared to have felled it, but were interrupted by the arrival of three soldiers from Brigade 42.

According to Chuong, an argument ensued. One of the rangers took out his phone to take a video of the incident, but was stopped by a soldier, who he claims said, “If you film this, we will shoot and break your arm”, before stuffing the phone in his pocket.

A compromise was reached, Chuong said, with the patrollers being handed back their phone and allowed to confiscate one of the tractors and several planks of wood.

While Chuong alleges the family and soldiers were engaging in illegal commercial logging, Brigade 42 commanding officer Sorn Van said the wood was being used to construct a kitchen at brigade headquarters and denied the soldiers were violent.

“The soldiers made no threats, nor did they take the mobile phone. They [the rangers] insisted on confiscating the planks, but we did not allow them,” said Van.

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