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M’kiri blaze probably an arson, officials say

M’kiri blaze probably an arson, officials say

OFFICIALS in Mondulkiri province say they are investigating a fire that destroyed a Forestry Administration office building in Sre Preah commune, Keo Seima district, on Saturday night, in what the deputy commune police chief said was likely a case of arson.

Sambath Methany said the fire appeared to have been intentional, but he added that officials had yet to identify a suspect.

He and several other officials noted that the blaze took place two days after illegal loggers opened fire on Forestry Administration officials from the office as they were trying to disrupt the route of two trucks loaded with illegal logs headed to the Vietnamese border. But the officials emphasised that there was no hard evidence linking the two incidents.

“I don’t know yet the reason for the fire, but the event happened after the Forestry Administration officials cracked down on the illegal logging case on the night of January 7,” Sambath Methany said.

Sarou Rattana, head of the Forestry Administration’s Keo Seima district office, said he was collecting evidence in the case, adding that officials had managed to confiscate the two trucks that were stopped during the January 7 altercation, in which no one was injured.

“My colleagues will continue the investigation,” he said.

Tot Choy, the chief of Sre Preah village, said Sunday that local authorities had found bullet casings from the shooting.

Chhay Thy, Mondulkiri provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said he planned to launch a separate investigation, adding that he was convinced the fire was intentional.

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