Protesting efforts to prevent them from hunting wildlife and felling trees, villagers in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district set fire to the local Environment Department office on Saturday.
According to Acting Department Director Thon Sokhon, nearly 200 villagers gathered around the office around 9am to demand that he and other officials return wood they confiscated from the villagers and stop preventing them from hunting and clearing forests.
Sokhon said some villagers came armed with machetes, stones and axes and proceeded to set the office’s stairs on fire, along with some of the confiscated wood and a table. Some of the villagers, said Sokhon, escaped with two phones as well as knives and axes stolen from the office.
He said he and his colleagues did not pursue the villagers and that his team is checking footage and pictures of the attack to identify the perpetrators.
“The provincial Department [of the Environment] is working with the provincial government to deal with the matter but I don’t know the details on what will be the actions,” said Ministry of Environment spokesman Sao Sopheap.
“Firstly, we need to make sure all sides are safe and people’s lives are not in danger.”