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Men held over forest clearing in Mondulkiri

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Police arrested six men this week for using tractors to clear protected land for personal use. Ministry of Environment

Men held over forest clearing in Mondulkiri

Four men were detained on Tuesday for clearing land in a biodiversity conservation corridor of protected natural areas in Koh Nhek district, in Mondulkiri province.

Mondulkiri provincial Department of Environment director Keo Sopheak said on Wednesday that an investigating judge at the provincial court had ordered four men to be held in pre-trial detention for grabbing forest land for personal ownership – an offence under articles 62 and 56 of the Natural Protected Areas Law.

“There were three different cases of clearing forest land for ownership at protected natural areas. We detained a total of six suspects and sent them to court. The court decided to temporarily hold just four people,” he said.

Sopheak said three of the accused were Cambodian nationals Tith Soboeun, 47, from Tbong Khmum province; Rong Sokchea, 22, from Memot district, Tbong Khmum province; and Yat Chhaya, 19, who is currently living in Kok village, Krek commune, Ponhea Krek district, Tbong Khmum province.

The men were arrested by a park ranger while they were operating a bulldozer illegally to plough land in Rovak village, Royor commune, Koh Nhek district, Mondulkiri province. Such activity is illegal in protected areas, biodiversity conservation areas and protected natural areas.

In the prevention operation and crackdown on natural resources, Sopheak said park rangers inspecting the scene measured more than 30ha and found two tractors, which were taken to the office.

A fourth man, Sopheak said, was questioned by the judge at the Mondulkiri Provincial Court on Tuesday and detained in connection with the use of explosives – an offence under articles 61 and 56 of the Law on Protected Natural Areas.

The accused, 25-year-old Ren Lina, currently lives in Sre Sangkum commune, Koh Nhek district, in Mondulkiri province.

Lina was arrested on Sunday in Koh Nhek district, Mondulkiri province, in the Prech Mountain forest sanctuary. He possessed a rifle and a box of ammunition for hunting.

The Mondulkiri provincial Department of Environment said park rangers sent two more suspects to court in connection with forest land clearance. The two suspects are Kan Somaly, 57, and Nam Sokha, 38. Both are from Lumphat district in Ratanakkiri province.

The suspects were detained by rangers at Ror Nhor commune, Koh Nhek district, while they were driving a tractor and illegally ploughing the land.

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