Some 100 villagers in Koh Kong province’s Thma Bang district removed warning posts put up by environmental rangers and a conservation NGO around land that had been allegedly cleared by the residents since 2013 for farming, filing a complaint against the NGO for allegedly destroying their crops.
Wildlife Alliance and the rangers have been clearing banana trees planted by villagers on 600 hectares of forestland in three villages, saying the land belonged to the protected Southern Cardamom National Park. On Friday, they put up warning posts asking villagers not to use the land for logging or planting crops.
But residents of Trapaing Chhoeu Tray village took down the posts and filed a complaint against the NGO with local authorities and rights group Licadho.
Vong Sari, 26, said the forest had already been logged and that villagers had been planting bananas on the land since 2013. “My banana plantation, around 1 hectare, was slashed down and the post was displayed on the land. When they slashed it down, they did not inform us,” he said yesterday.
While Wildlife Alliance officials could not be reached, Mon Phalla, provincial director of the environmental department, said the villagers had illegally cleared the land, and maintained the crops were cut with villagers’ consent.
Licadho’s In Kongchit said the villagers had just cleared some land behind their homes for farming, not for illegal activities like logging or poaching, adding that the group would investigate the case and ask authorities for intervention.