Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Extortion claims rejected in Mondulkiri

Extortion claims rejected in Mondulkiri

Illegal timber being hidden in water from the authorities during a recent crackdown in Mondulkiri province that provoked accusations of extortion. Photo supplied.
Illegal timber being hidden in water from the authorities during a recent crackdown in Mondulkiri province that provoked accusations of extortion. Photo supplied.

Extortion claims rejected in Mondulkiri

A deputy district governor in Mondulkiri province’s Koh Nhek district yesterday denied allegations that he tried to extort villagers during a timber crackdown last week, while an environmental official filed a criminal complaint against the villagers.

Last week, some 200 ethnic Phnong villagers in the district launched a protest following an armed seizure of timber, accusing authorities of demanding money in exchange for the return of the lumber and firing a warning shot during the crackdown.

A villager representative at the time insisted officials had tried to extort the villagers and had searched homes without a warrant. A police official quoted then confirmed both the warning shot, and that one trader had paid $250 and been allowed to keep his wood.

But Deputy Governor Nut Boeun, who led the crackdown, yesterday denied any wrongdoing.“The allegation is not true. It is an illegal allegation of the illegal timber traders . . . they are not innocent people,” Boeun said.

In a police report filed after the incident, Boeun acknowledged the warning shot but maintained it was warranted.

“Before the wildlife sanctuary forces arrived, [alleged timber trader] Khun Hoeun and seven to eight of his accomplices grabbed one soldier and tried to take his weapon while some of them threw the stones,” the January 27 report reads.

“Because the situation was uncontrollable, one soldier shot into the sky once and they unhanded the soldier,” the report continues.

The statement claims authorities found 100 planks of illegal timber, presumably destined to be trafficked to Vietnam, at the home of Hoeun. Boeun then called authorities from the Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary, because the village was within the protected zone.

Din Bun Thoeun, director of the Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary, said he filed a criminal complaint against Hoeun on Tuesday for obstructing officials from enforcing the law.

“Khun Hoeun is the initiator, and he tried to stop the officials from fulfilling their tasks . . . The court will interrogate him,” Thoeun said.

Thoeun also claimed that the protesting villagers tried to prevent his men from leaving the area with the confiscated timber, constructing a roadblock and continuing to throw rocks.

A member of the community, who wish to remain anonymous, maintained yesterday that none of the villagers were responsible for the logging, instead maintaining it was Vietnamese traders coming from across the border.

Sok Rotha, Mondulkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the organisation received a complaint from the villagers on Tuesday. Rotha said he would follow up with authorities to find a solution.

“The community accused the deputy governor of intimidation, illegally seizing the property, extortion,” he said, relaying a claim by the villagers that the wood was not illegal.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Life goes on’ if Cambodia loses Everything But Arms

    Cambodia's business sector is exploring ways to mitigate any fallout from a possible loss of access to the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement as talks continue before the 28-member bloc makes a final decision. The EU monitoring process is set to conclude in

  • Nesat beach: A magnet drawing tourists to the Kingdom’s coastline

    A white sandy beach lined by countless coconut trees awaits travellers off Cambodia’s southwest coast in Koh Kong province’s Srae Ambel district, about 170km from Phnom Penh. Over the past few years Nesat beach – a name inspired by a nearby fishing village – has

  • PM: Workers must train for Industry 4.0

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged the Kingdom’s workforce to seek more technical training and strengthen their skills if they are to avoid job losses resulting from the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Hun Sen said the fourth industrial revolution is like a double-edged sword that

  • Huawei applies for OS trademark in Cambodia

    China's Huawei Technologies Co has applied to trademark the “Hongmeng” operating system (OS) in a number of countries including Cambodia in a bid to launch its homegrown operating system as a replacement for the Android OS, Reuters has reported. Huawei has applied to trademark the “