Community forest patrollers in Oddar Meanchey’s Samrong district say they were forced to return saws and timber they seized from illegal loggers after soldiers detained and threatened them on Sunday.
The 27-member patrol, funded by development NGO Pact as part of the REDD+ carbon credit program, was detained by two armed soldiers while returning to their office with two chainsaws and 100 planks of luxury timber they had seized on Saturday from four villagers felling trees in protected community forest, said representative Suon Sorn.
“The armed soldiers blocked us between 3pm and 6pm, threatening to bring us to their garrison. We were hungry and tired and promised to return [the seized items],” he said, adding that the patrol returned the items yesterday.
The soldiers had said the trees were being felled to construct a new building for their garrison, said community forest network provincial chief Sar Khlai.
He pointed out that authorities would not have given the garrison permission to log in an area acknowledged as community forest land by the government, which had an agreement with Pact to develop a REDD+ carbon credit program there.
The soldiers’ unit could not be reached. Samrong governor Thol Nol said authorities had not granted the garrison rights to community forest.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JUSTINE DRENNAN