Nine Phnong ethnic community representatives and a senior Adhoc officer jointly filed a lawsuit yesterday at the Mondulkiri Provincial Court against eight local officials they allege have turned a blind eye to illegal logging in the Phnom Nam Lyr wildlife sanctuary.
The suit follows their inspection last month of the sanctuary in Pech Chreada and O’Raing districts, where they claim to have uncovered a 1,000-hectare patch of forest that had been felled.
The lawsuit was filed by nine individuals from nine villages in Bousraa and Dak Dam communes, along with Pen Bunnar, land and natural resources official at rights group Adhoc.
The defendants include village, commune and district chiefs as well as local environment department officials. Kreung Tola, representative of the Ethnic Minority Community Network in Mondulkiri, alleged local authorities were ultimately responsible for the clearing, if only by neglect.
“They had no measures to prevent the crime and protect the forest,” Tola said. “The forest is under their administration.”
Bunnar said he filed the complaint to prevent forests from being cleared in the future and to urge the court to punish those behind the crime.
“Any person, government official or organisation, has right to file a complaint to protect the state’s public land,” he said. Han Khorn, director at the Phnom Nam Lry wildlife sanctuary, denied officials had been neglectful in their duties.
Last month, provincial environment department director Keo Sopheak admitted a few hectares were cleared, but far less than 1,000.