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Nature NGO denies claims of extortion

Four environmental officers stand at a Siem Reap police station after being arrested earlier this week.
Four environmental officers stand at a Siem Reap police station after being arrested earlier this week. Photo supplied

Nature NGO denies claims of extortion

A pro-nature NGO yesterday denied allegations that four of its staff members were extorting fishermen in Siem Reap after police arrested and detained them.

Touch Sakol, Chi Kraeng district police chief, said that a group of fishermen complained that the suspects, who work for the Natural Resources Prevention and Development Organization, asked them for 300,000 to 400,000 riel (about $75 to $100) and threatened to seize and burn their fishing tools if they didn’t fork out the cash.

“A day after receiving the complaint, our forces launched the investigation at the site, and they found the suspects were extorting the money from other fishermen,” he said.

“Then we just arrested them for interrogation and we forwarded the case to the court for further procedures.”

Sakol said that Horm Ny, a representative of the fishing community in Stung Chrov village in Anlong Samnor commune, who filed the complaint, alleged that at least two families paid 170,000 riel (about $42) each, to the suspects.

However, Kenh Vert, executive director of the NGO, said that he didn’t believe the story. He said that the four might have been framed by a powerful person involved in fishery crimes.

“Until now, I still do not believe that our staff committed such a crime,” said Vert.

“We will launch an investigation.” The NGO claims to protect forests, wildlife and minerals from exploitation. Its website was down as of yesterday.

The suspects include “crime observer” Chhem Chhoeng, 38, and his three colleagues – Chan Sokhen, 32, Lem Savun, 52, and Khan Touch, 48.

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