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Police to ‘monitor’ activists

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Kampong Thom province

Police and soldiers have been deployed to Prey Lang forest to monitor the activities of about 500 villagers patrolling for illegal loggers, a police official said yesterday.

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The police and military officers gathered along a road leading to the CRCK rubber company, which has been granted an economic land concession in the forest, in anticipation of a roadblock the villagers have threatened.

The authorities’ presence, however, was premature – the villagers spent yesterday patrolling on motorbikes in five separate groups, unable to contact each other because there was no mobile phone coverge in the area.

Svay Phoeun, a village representative from Preah Vihear, said villagers will meet at a designated location today in preparation for their roadblock, which they plan to continue into tomorrow.

“We could not meet each other today because we could not contact each other, so we plan to meet each other in Beung village, where we will block the road and ask the authority to find a resolution for us,” he said.

Soem Sean, a villager representative from Kampong Thom, said the villages from four provinces – Kratie, Stoeung Treng, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear – had been patrolling for illegal loggers and timber ready to be transported from the forest.

“We still follow our plans, because we want to protect the trees.”

Police, military police and soldiers had been deployed along the road where they planned to protest, he said.

Nhem Dong, deputy police chief of Sandan district, said officers had been posted to monitor the villagers’ activities.

“We got orders from a high-level office not to do anything to these villagers, just monitor their activity,” he said.

Ouch Sam On, deputy governor of Kampong Thom province, said he was concerned by reports villagers had burned wood in three separate places.

“I think their action is illegal,” he said. “If they have evidence, they should bring it to us so we can file a complaint to the court.”

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at may.titthara@phnompenhpost.com

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