A border police chief in Mondulkiri has been accused of clearing protected forest to make way for a private cassava farm, according to about 100 Phnong families who filed a complaint with a local rights group yesterday.
Thoeung Thveuk, chief of the O’Kleur community in Dak Dan commune, accused police chief Keo Dan of encroachment in a forest where the families live. “Keo Dan destroyed forest for his own property, and such activity greatly affects our traditional cash crops,” he said.
Adhoc provincial coordinator Kul Midy confirmed he received the complaint and said the issue was important for many indigenous communities.
Keo Dan dismissed any wrongdoing, but admitted he had cleared half a hectare of forest with two other villagers. “I know the land belongs to the state. I just need a small plot of land for farming. If the state wants to take it back, I will give it back,” he said.
Mondulkiri forestry administration official Song Kheang said he had just received word of the complaint and would work with local officials to investigate it. If convicted, Keo Dan could face a sentence of 12 months to 10 years in prison.