More than 200 villagers in Preah Vihear province have submitted a petition requesting help from their representative in the National Assembly after local forestry administration officials raided a dozen of their handicraft and furniture shops, seizing raw timber and finished products.
Beginning October 28 and lasting through the end of the month, the officials confiscated more than 100 cubic metres of timber and furniture. On the first of this month, owners were joined by workers and villagers in a protest against the action in Preah Vihear town, and on Monday, they submitted a petition to ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Suos Yara.
“Some places are legal with some documents, and some are not,” said Pek Sophon, chief of advocacy for local NGO Ponlok Khmer.
Between 30 and 40 places bought timber and made furniture, but officials only cracked down on 12, Sophon said, adding that the rest of the shops hid their wares soon afterwards.
One protester, a 50-year-old man who gave only one name, Kuy, said his furniture shop was raided and authorities took the timber he was planning on using to build a home.
“The provincial forestry officers entered my shop without a court order. They threatened to arrest us if we banned them from entering and confiscating our items,” he said.
“We want to get our timber and furniture back. I bought it legally, not illegally.”
Ith Phomara, provincial Forestry Administration director, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
But Yara, the CPP lawmaker, said he met with provincial authorities and protesters in Preah Vihear town yesterday to try and solve the problem.
“We coordinated the case and explained to the villagers about the laws [on selling timber], [and] not to be angry with the officers who implement the law,” he said, adding that the villagers agreed to stop protesting and are coming up with documents to prove their wares are from legitimate sources.
“If their documents show that their timber is legal, the forestry officers will return the timber and furniture to them,” Yara said.