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NGO staffers arrested for ‘extorting’ loggers

Police stand with NGO members accused of extortion in Pursat. Photo supplied
Police stand with NGO members accused of extortion in Pursat. Photo supplied

NGO staffers arrested for ‘extorting’ loggers

District authorities in two provinces arrested eight environmental NGO staffers for alleged extortion over Thursday and Friday.

Sek Bun Heng, governor of Kratie province’s Preak Prasop district, said he received multiple complaints accusing Voeun Bunthoeun, 24, and several of his colleagues from an NGO called Environmental Protection and Development of extorting money from villagers transporting timber for firewood and construction.

“They set up illegal checkpoints,” said Bun Heng. “I saw [Bunthoeun] extorting money, and we arrested him.”

Bunthoeun’s mother, Leav Ean, 49, yesterday conceded her son had extorted money but said illegal traders, not villagers, had been the target.

“They transported [wood] to sell, not for use,” she said. Ean added that Chan Sorn, the NGO’s district director, and her son’s colleagues were equally guilty. “Sorn extorted money from timber transporters for years,” she said. Contact information for the NGO was unavailable yesterday.

Separately, on Friday, authorities in Pursat’s Krakor district arrested seven staffers from an NGO called the Cooperative Protector of Natural Resource.

Krakor district police chief Em Run said two families accused the NGO employees of demanding payment in exchange for letting them keep wood they had chopped for sale and domestic use.

“[The NGO staffers] confessed to extorting money from the villagers,” Run said.

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