Villagers from the Tumpuon ethnic minority group in Keng San community forest are accusing the local authority and some community members of colluding with timber traders to illegally fell large trees and clear dozens of hectares of forest land in their community.
The forest borders the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakiri province’s Lumphat district.
Representatives of the Kham Khin and Tumpuon ethnic minority groups told The Post on Thursday that most of the loggers came from different provinces. They have chainsaws and set up camps in the community forest in O’Krieng area for the past week.
The loggers sell timber to traders who will distribute them to various depots in the northeast provinces before exporting them to Vietnam.
“Recently, they also cleared 30 hectares of community forest with total disregard for the laws,” said Nin, a representative of the minority groups who gave only his first name.
“The loggers and traders are backed by local authorities who collude and permit them to commit forest crimes for personal gains,” he said.
Keng San villager Srout Sambok said the clearing also spread to natural streams and the last remaining area where the Tumpuon ethnic community villagers collect forestry products.
“Our community forest land, which is about 1,000 hectares and the only remaining forest, stretches from O’Krieng to Nam Lear Lake. But it is being cleared. An additional 30 hectares have been cleared recently by outside traders who colluded with local authorities.
“It would not take long before our community forest falls into the hands of traders because of negligence and collusion. We’ve lost trust in Nhok Kuot, the Keng San village chief and head of the Tumpuon ethnic community who often warned us against protesting,” Sambok said.
Kuot admitted Thursday that there are outside villagers logging trees in the protected forest area, but he denied the villagers’ allegations that the authorities’ colluded with the traders.
“It’s the villagers who secretly fell the trees every day to support their families,” Kuot claimed.
Adhoc’s senior land and natural resources officer Pen Bonna said the Keng San community forest is part of the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary that is located on 4,000 hectares.