Authorities and villagers arrived at a compromise in Kratie province last week after military police confiscated a fleet of single-axle tractors loaded with wood in Chet Borey district’s Kolab commune.
Commune chief Chhum Chhouy said the seizure took place in the early hours of Saturday morning, when military police intercepted the tractors as they were leaving a nearby forest. He said he pleaded with the authorities not to arrest the villagers as the lumber was not luxury timber and had been gathered from the forest floor, not felled.
“They spent about half a week in the forest to collect that wood, which they can sell for 10,000 to 15,000 riel [about $2.50 to $3.75] apiece,” he said. “I begged the military police to release my villagers and not to arrest them because it was just pieces of wood.”
Commune police chief Hoeun Piseth said that a deal was reached whereby the villagers relinquished the wood and were allowed to leave with their tractors.
Chet Borey district military police chief Im Chetra confirmed that no one was arrested. “We just talked to the villagers and let them go,” Chetra said.