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Villagers in court: Prey Lang land activists deny charge

Forest activists accused of destroying private property told a court hearing in Kampong Thom province yesterday that they were acting to protect mainland Southeast Asia’s largest evergreen forest from illegal logging.

In 2011, businesswoman Ol Ratha pressed charges against the defendants for allegedly uprooting a 1-hectare cassava plantation she owned.

But a lawyer for the nine defendants – Mao Thea, 37; Meas Koeung, 20; Meas Vann, 25; Prom Suy, 68; Hem Hay, 25; Nuon Kin, 40; Duong Chay, 45; Sao Korn, 50; and Chheang Vuthy, 39 – told Kampong Thom Provincial Court that there was no evidence to support the plaintiff’s accusations.

“They [the defendants] just monitored the logging in Prey Lang and there is no evidence supporting claims they up-rooted her [Ratha’s] cassava,” the lawyer said.

Ratha’s lawyer, Huy Mang, dismissed the villagers’ claims. A verdict is due on August 5.

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