A forest patrol in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district spotted five loggers clearing the community’s ancestral forest on Tuesday, villagers and rights group Adhoc said yesterday.
Adhoc provincial coordinator Chhay Thy said that three representatives of nearly 200 ethnic Jarai families in Pak Nhai commune asked for help after the patrol detained employees of Vietnamese concessionaire Company 72. The concessionaire has already cleared some 100 hectares of the 1,000-hectare forest on which villagers rely for the livelihoods, according to Thy.
“They are all Vietnamese nationals, logging the … forest, and community patrollers stopped them, confiscating a chainsaw,” he said.
This is the third time that the villagers have taken it upon themselves to detain loggers spotted in the forest, he added, though this time they didn’t hold the loggers for the police, who are thought to be affiliated with the company.
“The company was expanding its boundaries into the [ancestral] forest with six pieces of machinery last week, but the community gathered to force them out of the forest,” Thy continued.
Community representative Romas Chvath, 48, said that the five loggers sighted on Tuesday were in the midst of loading timber onto a tractor when the villagers approached.
“Two of them escaped on the tractor, but we managed to hold three for an hour to question them before letting them go,” he recounted. “We confiscated the chainsaw from them and warned them not to log in our forest again.”
Chvath said that villagers posted more than 200 placards saying, “The company is prohibited from clearing the protected forest,” but has had trouble getting authorities to recognise and make official their claim to the area.
“We are trying to protect our forest by ourselves, but the authorities do not even acknowledge it,” he said.
Contact information for Company 72 was not available yesterday, but O’Yadav district governor Dak Sar confirmed that the company’s 6,000-hectare concession overlapped in part with the villagers’ forest.