THE police chief in Kratie province has instructed local authorities to watch for sham NGOs set up to extort money from villagers, following a raid earlier this week in which, he said, six such NGOs were shut down.
Chuong Seang Hak said yesterday that police on Monday raided six NGOs that were ostensibly combating forest crimes.
At all six, he said, workers dressed up in fake police or Forestry Administration uniforms and levied fines against people seen entering or exiting protected forest, regardless of what they were doing. He said that in most cases the workers had paid US$100 for their posts, and had been permitted to keep a portion of each fine.
“We stopped the work of those NGOs so that they can apply for licences with the government and inform authorities of their work,” Chuong Seang Hak said. “They cannot extort money from the villagers.”
Mom Sok Kin, a representative of villagers in Snuol district’s Ksim commune, said the NGO workers had been administering fines of between 5,000 and 20,000 riels (US$2.35), and that villagers had welcomed Monday’s crackdown.
“They were not legal NGOs,” he said. “They claimed that they were working with the government to curb illegal logging or wildlife crimes, but actually they were asking for money when villagers passed through their illegal checkpoints.”
Iv Saphum, the governor of Snuol district, said three of the NGOs targeted on Monday had been in his district. He said they had been established in the early months of this year, and that authorities had been made aware of them after receiving a steady stream of complaints.
“We decided to stop them because hundreds of people were confused about why these fake officials had been extorting their money,” he said.
Thim Narin, a provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said there were about 14 registered NGOs operating in the province. She expressed concern that the damage caused by the fake NGOs could detract from the work of legitimate ones.
“Their illegal activities have affected the other good NGOs that work for the people,” she said.
Chuong Seang Hak, the provincial police chief, said two of the NGOs shut down on Monday had been registered with the Interior Ministry, and that there was a good chance they would be allowed to resume operations.