Kampong Thom province
Villagers patrolling Prey Lang forest on motorbikes yesterday defended their decision to burn more than 360 cubic metres of timber, tear down 10 huts used by “illegal loggers” and confiscate a chainsaw, a villager representative said.
As 500 villagers continued their patrols for illegal loggers, Hoeun Sopheap, a villager representative from Kampong Thom, said the villagers had filmed and photographed the burnings to show the authorities the extent of Prey Lang’s destruction.
“The reason we burned this wood was because we have no ability to take it to show the authorities, so we have had to burn it down and take photos,” he said. “If we don’t burn it, illegal loggers will come back and get it.”
Since the weekend, his group had burned 364 cubic metres of timber, he said.
Villagers, however, had decided against blocking a road to rubber company CRCK, which has been granted an economic land concession in the forest, because of the number of police who had flooded the area.
“Our plans were thwarted by their spies, so we will do it next time,” he said.
Villager Kim Chheng, 50, said these “spies” had followed villagers and threatened them. “We will give our photos and videos to forestry administration officers, commune chiefs and provincial governors . . . they have never co-operated with us against illegal loggers,” he said, adding the group had discovered about 800 resin trees that had been cut down in the forest.
Chum Yin, a villager representative, said his group had burnt part of a road used by trucks because it was used only by illegal loggers and did not serve the “public interest”.
Ouch Sam On, deputy governor of Kampong Thom province, said he had not received reports from his officers but had heard villagers had burned down a bridge.
“All the villagers who provide evidence about illegal logging according to the law will get [a reward], but what they have done by burning the wood is illegal.”
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]