The Mondulkiri provincial Department of Environment on Thursday continued questioning nine suspects detained by forest rangers for clearing protected land in Pech Chreada district’s Krang Tes commune.

Provincial Department of Environment director Keo Sopheak said after detaining the nine suspects on Wednesday that forest rangers sent them to the department for questioning in order for a case file to be sent to court.

“All nine suspects are men who hailed from Kratie province, not Mondulkiri,” he said.

He said the rangers had caught them in the commune, sawing timber, logging and clearing forest land to possess it.

“When arriving there, our forest rangers spotted them sawing timber and clearing forest land. They built some sawmills where carcasses of wild animals and homemade rifles were found,” he said.

A report from the department said the seizure of exhibits included a mechanical saw, a ground-drilling machine, two timber-cutting motors, two timber-drilling motors, a generator, a pump rifle, three motorcycles and nine mobile phones.

The suspects and exhibits are being held temporarily at the Mondulkiri provincial Department of Environment.

Provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc Eang Mengly said the nine suspects were likely hired by someone to clear the land.

“All the suspects are workers who were hired to clear the forest and natural resources. The authorities and the rangers arrested them, which is good.

“But they should take action against the others involved . . . those behind the nine suspects who encouraged the workers to illegally clear forest land and destroy natural resources,” he said.

The department report noted the suspects were aged 18 to 48.