Some 300 villagers from the Andong Trabaek community in Svay Rieng province’s Romeas Hek district will accompany two representatives who have been summonsed to the provincial court Tuesday to clarify allegations of illegal logging that villagers say were fabricated by Forestry Administration officials in order to steal farmland.
Representative Soun Seyha said 86 families had been wrapped up in a dispute over 71 hectares with forestry officials since 2008, and had filed multiple complaints to no avail. The current case began when people returned to the disputed land to grow cassava and rice – without disturbing the acacia trees – Seyha said, maintaining the Forestry Administration had “used the court system to threaten us”.
The other summonsed representative, Soun Hongly, said villagers had cultivated the land since 1980 but were chased off in 2008 by forestry officials and threatened with warning shots when they tried to return.
Theng Saveoung, the secretariat co-ordinator of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, said the forestry officials were seeking to sell the land for their own gain.
Neither Net Phok, the official who filed the complaint, nor Soun Somnang, the provincial investigating judge who issued the summons, could be reached for comment.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]