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Officials aided Vietnamese loggers, villagers say

Lumber lies on the ground in Ratanakkiri’s Andong Meas district earlier this year at a logging site after it was discovered by a local ethnic Jarai community.
Lumber lies on the ground in Ratanakkiri’s Andong Meas district earlier this year at a logging site after it was discovered by a local ethnic Jarai community. ADHOC

Officials aided Vietnamese loggers, villagers say

Evidence of illegal logging perpetrated by Vietnamese lumberjacks in collusion with local authorities in Ratanakkiri’s Andong Meas district was submitted to a local rights group by an ethnic Jarai community yesterday.

Some 20 photographs, purportedly showing five Vietnamese men felling trees in a community forest, were collected over four months by community members from Nhang commune’s Tainlorm village and handed over to ADHOC.

“The photos show countless [instances of] illegal logging in Cambodian territory by Vietnamese people,” ADHOC coordinator Chhay Thy said.

ADHOC and the community claim the images also show that the illegal timber was transported across the Sesan River, which constitutes the border with Vietnam in the area, to a Vietnamese village identified as “Phum Pi”. They reportedly show cut timber and logs fitted with tyre tubes to cross the river.

What’s more, the evidence points to “a Vietnamese employer named Blan colluding with a village chief and a head of village security and border police to log”, Thy said.

A hand-written letter from the Jarai villagers that was submitted along with the photographs says two village-level officials “cooperated with the Fatam border police chief to allow the Vietnamese Mr Blan, to cross the border and log the trees in community forest from Phasao to Fatam outpost”.

Neither of the two could be reached yesterday.

A community member involved in the evidence collection – who wished to remain anonymous – claimed the loggers bribed the officials and others, paying some 80 million dong (about $3,600) for their cooperation.

“[The loggers] camped on the other side of the Sesan River, and at night they crossed it to log and hauled it to Vietnam.

“Our patrollers spotted [them] and captured photos as the evidence,” he said.

In early August, the same community seized a tractor, two motorbikes and an engine from a Vietnamese logger known as Thinh. A complaint was filed to the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court via ADHOC.

On August 6, Bakeo Forestry Administration subpoenaed the owner of the confiscated items to appear within 30 days for questioning, but no one has yet claimed responsibility.

Vong Soksery, Ratanakkiri provincial Forestry Administration director, said that after obtaining the information about both offences, his officers visited the areas, but found no evidence of logging. Officials say they are monitoring the situation.

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