Villagers in Ratanakkiri’s Lumphat district have filed a complaint with rights group Adhoc, claiming their village chief has threatened them with arrest over a petition accusing officials of illegally logging a community forest.
Sven Vev, 40, said he and three other representatives of the ethnic Tumpoun community in Batang commune’s Batang village tried collecting 150 thumbprints to file a lawsuit against the alleged loggers.
But village chief Theng Mang – one of the subjects of the complaint, along with a police officer, a security guard chief and a villager – had threatened them, Vev claimed.
“When we were collecting the thumbprints, the village chief, Theng Mang, threatened the villagers that if they thumbprint it, he will order security guards to arrest them,” he said.
The villagers filed the petition to the provincial Forestry Administration, which could not be reached for comment.
Mang rejected the claims yesterday, saying he was not responsible for felling a single tree and had not threatened to arrest anyone.
“I just said that I will order the village security guards to seize documents from them, not arrest them,” he said.
Areas of the forest, he added, had been cleared by other villagers over the past three years.
“I don’t know why they have accused me of this.”
The villagers say the four accused were caught clearing the forest in December.
This led to the commune chief convening a meeting with the officials and the community, during which the four promised to cease the logging, the petition alleges.
“But now, the four have resumed the clearing of the land to sell it, so we ask for a solution soon,” it reads.