Ethnic Jarai villagers in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district have accused border officials of not only allowing illegal Vietnamese loggers to cross the border unimpeded, but also of taking their side in negotiations with a community forest patrol.
Members of the patrol in Paknhai commune’s Lam village said that on Monday afternoon they confronted two Vietnamese loggers who were transporting 40 pieces of luxury timber across the border.
While the men, armed with machetes, were eventually allowed to leave with their haul, the patrol seized a chainsaw, Sev Finh, chief of the Lam forest protection committee, said.
“The Vietnamese men told us that the O’Thmorda [checkpoint] border police had allowed them to cross the border to log,” he said.
Finh added that yesterday three border officials returned with one of the loggers to try to negotiate the chainsaw’s return.
Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said a border official had called him to promise that villagers would be paid for the chainsaw’s return. “The police did not arrest [the loggers] and instead helped them,” he said.
O’Yadav district police chief Mar Vichet said his officers would have “taken action” against the loggers had the community not seized evidence.
Border police could not be reached for comment.