Four members of a forest patrol were ambushed in Preah Vihear’s Cheam Pen community forest on Tuesday afternoon, according to deputy forest chief Ros Lim.
The attack comes as officials say the murders of a forestry official and policeman on patrol in neighbouring forests last November remain unsolved.
“The illegal loggers chased the rangers, who escaped into the village to get help,” Lim said, adding that the loggers had set up camp for a few nights to log in the forest, but were observed by rangers hauling timber on two buffalo carts.
The alleged victims belong to a group of 130 ethnic Kuoy community patrollers, who divide into 10 teams to patrol the forest every day. However, community member Sok San yesterday said the threat of violence had led some to give up the patrols.
“They threatened to shoot us, hack us up, and cut our throats in our homes,” he said. “We’re living in fear. We asked the authorities for help, but they ignored us; I don’t dare to go out.”
Rovieng district environmental director Chin Monorith said he instructed the community to contact Environment Ministry officials at Bueng Per Wildlife Sanctuary, whose remit Cheam Pen forest falls under.
Beung Per director Yan Bun Soeung yesterday told the Post he will be dispatching six rangers to accompany the community patrols starting today, adding that he was aware forestry crime was a problem in the sanctuary.
“We usually send our rangers to intercept it immediately. The loggers are cruel. Between 10 and 20 of them surrounded the rangers late last month,” Soeung said.
Last November, forestry official Seang Narong and district police officer Sap Yuos were gunned down while patrolling Preah Vihear’s forests. Provincial prosecutor Ly Lon yesterday said that neither case has been forwarded to the provincial court, nine months on.
Provincial Adhoc coordinator Lor Chann said that the police ought to forward the case to the court, regardless of whether suspects have been identified. “If they don’t have enough [evidence], the court will ask them to investigate more,” he said.
Deputy provincial police chief Chhoy Borin said the perpetrator was still at large. “It’s very difficult to investigate, especially in the army-controlled area,” he said.
Fingers were pointed at soldiers from Brigade 9’s Battalion 391 to Post reporters at the time of the murder.