THE Mondulkiri provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc said he plans to file two complaints in Phnom Penh today on behalf of Banong ethnic minority villagers who say that military border police threatened to shoot them after they detained nine Vietnamese men caught logging illegally in Pich Chreada district.
Chhay Thy said local authorities’ handling of the case had been inadequate. “This has made the people lose confidence in the authorities because they have shown that they do not respect the law,” he said.
She said the complaints would be filed by five villagers representing 200 families. One is set to go to the Justice Ministry, while the other will go to the Court of Appeal, despite the fact that the case has not yet been heard in provincial court, he said.
On Wednesday, two groups of villagers happened upon two separate bands of Vietnamese illegal loggers, according to villagers’ accounts. The first group detained five loggers, and the second group, which was accompanied by provincial court prosecutor Im Sophan, detained four, the villagers said. All of the loggers were then held in the same building in Pich Chreada district.
When military border police officers came to see the prisoners, they said the villagers had no right to make arrests and threatened to shoot them, the villagers said.
Several of the villagers attributed the threat to a military police officer they could identify only as Mr Prem. “I know only that his name is Mr Prem, and he works for Border Post No 8,” said Khan Channy, an ethnic Banong villager who participated in the arrests.
The Vietnamese men were released late Wednesday, in a move that outraged the Mondulkiri villagers.
“After we reported to the provincial authorities and asked for help, the prosecutor Im Sophan arrived in the evening at the commune with military police as well as local authorities,” said Plang Sin, a village representative. “Then the Vietnamese men were released.”
Im Sophan acknowledged having seen the detained men in the evening but denied having participated in the initial arrest. When he arrived, he said, the loggers had already been released.
“I did not see anybody except our villagers,” he said. “The villagers said the military had threatened them, so I told them to file a complaint and the court will investigate.”
The provincial Royal Cambodian Armed Forces commander said Sunday that he was in Battambang province and did not know enough about the case to comment on it.