An environmental ranger patrolling the protected Prey Ang Ten area was hacked five times with a machete by two men clearing the forest for farmland, Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said on Wednesday.
He said Chak Socheat, 30, one of the five environmental rangers patrolling the protected biodiversity corridor in Kampong Thom suffered serious injuries in the attack on Tuesday while apprehending the men, who managed to escape.
Socheat was released from intensive care at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital on Wednesday, he said.
Pheaktra condemned “the cruel and inhumane act committed against conservationists while carrying out their duty to protect natural resources”.
He said the rangers were patrolling an area in Santuk district’s O’Doeum Thkov in Kraya commune when they found the forest being cleared for farmland. The two men fled, with the rangers giving chase.
The suspects fought the rangers to avoid being detained, hacking Socheat five times to the head, back of the neck and wrists. The other rangers avoided injury.
“The ranger, who suffered serious injuries to his skull, was taken to Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital. I have just received information that he has been discharged from the emergency room."
“He is being cared for in hospital. Authorities are investigating the case to identify the suspects and submit a complaint to the court in order to punish them under the law,” Pheaktra said.
Sok Ratha, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he regretted the violent act on the ranger and urged authorities to thoroughly investigate the case to bring the suspects to court.
“The suspects have compounded the illegal act of clearing protected forest with using violence on the rangers."
“So the authorities must find them and bring them to court. They must also identify a motive behind the use of such violence because there might have been an element of revenge,” he said.
Pheaktra said Tuesday’s attack was the second time in the past two months that rangers had been wounded while on patrol. At the end of January, Cheng Chanthy was shot in the thigh by an illegal hunter in Mondulkiri province’s Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Ministry of Environment says it has 1,221 rangers guarding Cambodia’s protected areas and nearly 60 protected biodiversity corridors over an area of 7.5 million hectares.