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R’kiri man crushed by timber

A man hauling illegal timber has been killed in an accident in Ratanakkiri’s Lom village, marking the third local villager to die in a similar way in the past two months.

Relatives said that Sev Hlan, a 25-year-old ethnic Jarai villager, was hauling a load of illegal timber to Vietnam in a convoy of motorcycles on Tuesday afternoon, when his vehicle overturned and he was crushed by one of four huge planks wedged between him and the steering column.

The victim’s brother-in-law, Sal Chrum, yesterday said that Hlan and four transporters from Ten village had been hired by a broker he knew as “Mr Seiha” to haul timber to Vietnam with promises of more than 170,000 riel ($40) per trip.

According to Chrum, Seiha’s relatives were border officials in the area and he was therefore able to transport illegal timber without being intercepted. He said the four planks of sokrom timber his brother had balanced precariously in front of him weighed 600-700 kilograms.

“They are forced to pay about $10 to police at checkpoints each time, no matter how much they are carrying.

There is no regard for people, so if no prevention efforts are made, accidents will keep occurring,” he said, adding that villagers had complained about the increasingly large loads.

Chrum’s claims were rejected outright by Ngoy Dorn, O’Yadav deputy police chief, who said that the victim was hauling timber to his house and not for sale.

Chhay Thy, Ratanakirri provincial coordinator of the rights group Adhoc, noted that the Lom community had requested help from local authorities to stop hauling due to the frequency of accidents from overloading, but that no measures had been taken.

“Authorities have no ability to halt it, but on the other hand, it is people’s career, and income for border police and soldiers,” he said.

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