An illegal logger was killed when a first-grade tree fell on him in a Kratie community forest whose chief has allegedly gone into hiding following accusations of being involved in forestry crimes.
Two men, including the deceased, Meng Chhun Heng, 34, were felling a sokrom tree in Prasat Prey Toek Khmao community forest, in Kampong Cham commune, according to local village chief Im Pov.
“The two of them covertly logged a sokrom tree, [measuring] 40 centimetres in diametre and 16 metres long,” he said. “While they were logging, their chainsaw’s blade got stuck, and the tree . . . broke, falling on the victim.”
Prey Lang activist Ek Sovannara said the victim used to be involved in protecting the forest from illegal logging but started logging for money.
Two weeks ago, Prey Lang activists had discovered about 300 logs of first-grade timber in the community forest, where days later another 86 pieces of wood were found, Sovannara said.
Sovannara alleged community forest chief Teav Oun and some other community members were involved in forestry crimes. Oun couldn’t be reached for comment.
Kampong Cham commune chief Chhut Norm said he suggested that Oun be suspended from his position after receiving a complaint from Pov. However, Oun allegedly escaped when he failed to meet with authorities two weeks ago regarding the accusations.
The 5,665-hectare community forest, which borders Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, is registered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Sovannara said.
Winrock International has been providing technical and financial support to patrollers in the community. Curtis Hundley of Winrock said the organisation couldn’t comment on the allegations.
“Winrock is not in a position of authority to investigate who is behind these illegal activities,” he said.