Members of the ethnic Jarai community in Ratanakkiri’s Andong Meas district have lodged a complaint with the provincial court, demanding that it take legal action against four Vietnamese nationals and two Cambodian border officials for offences related to illegal logging.
After allegedly witnessing the accused felling trees in the forest, 26 community rangers in Nhang commune thumb-printed the document and filed it on yesterday morning.
It targets four Vietnamese – an employer referred to as Thinh, as well as three of his workers – and accuses them of illegally logging within their community on the banks of the Sesan River between April and June.
“Thinh and three of his workers are all Vietnamese, and they logged in our community forest,” it reads.
“We demand legal measures to be taken on the suspects in order to solve the issue and seek justice.”
Village representative Klan Hlang said that local authorities detained and questioned the Vietnamese nationals in mid-June.
They reportedly said that they had been allowed to pass through the border and log the forest because two officials at the Fatam border crossing, police chief Touch Hy and deputy Nan Thorng, had allowed them.
“We are also asking for the border police chief and his deputy to be replaced, since they allowed the Vietnamese people to log the forest – there was no intervention,” he said.
“We asked about the matter, but they said every time that they did not know.”
The men were freed due to their claims of being granted permission by Cambodian officials, and additionally, Thinh had promised to compensate the community $1,000. Hlang said that the employer did not stick to his word, however.
He also said that village rangers had seized several pieces of evidence from the suspects, including two motorbikes, chainsaws, a tractor and a truckbed used to deliver timber.
Local rights group Adhoc was requested to intervene in the case in late June.
Chhay Thy, the group’s provincial coordinator, said that Adhoc looked into the case on Monday and confirmed the group had committed forestry crimes, with the seized evidence sitting in the community office.
“Vietnamese keep haphazardly passing through to log forests in Cambodia.
They cut down the forest here since they had asked permission from the Fatam police official, as well as the village security director,” he said, not mentioning the village official’s name.
However, Nhang commune administrative police chief Le Thorngchan, said he was unaware of the logging.
“The provincial police ordered the border police to patrol, but we have never heard about the logging,” he said.
Fatam border police officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.