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Loggers say they were promised impunity

Loggers say they were promised impunity

TEN men facing charges of illegal logging in Preah Sihanouk provincial court say they were hired to do the work by businessmen, a local human rights group official said Tuesday.

Se Raksmey, prison researcher for the rights group Licadho in Preah Sihanouk province, said the 10 workers were officially charged on Friday with illegally cutting down trees in Stung Hav district.

They were arrested on February 3.
He said on Tuesday that the loggers were impoverished and had no choice but to accept the job offer.

“Prak Rith, a 23-year-old logger who was among those arrested, told me at the prison that they were arrested even though they were hired to do the work by two people,” he said.

He added that the loggers had agreed to do the work only because they had been assured they would not be arrested.

“They said, ‘No one will be arrested because you have been hired, don’t worry,’” Se Raksmey said.

He said the loggers had been offered a rate of 150,000 riels (US$36) per cleared hectare.

“I think they are victims because they were hired and they worked for money,” he said.

Bou Bunhand, the court’s chief prosecutor, said the loggers had been placed in pre-trial detention, adding that an investigation into the case was
ongoing and that a hearing had not yet been scheduled.

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