Six of 43 suspects have been sent to the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court for deforestation of a patch of land in Tuol Totoeng 2 village of Prey Nop district’s Tuol Totoeng commune.
Provincial court spokesman Huot Vichet told The Post on October 24 that the prosecutor’s office was examining the case before deciding on the charges.
“The outcome is based on the answer of the suspects and witnesses and evidence collected by authorities,” he said.
Cheap Sotheary, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said she had not yet gathered all the information on the case.
She said the six people were among those who have been accused of encroaching on forest land under the management of the provincial Forestry Administration.
However, Sotheary said she would investigate and provide comprehensive information about the case as she had previously received documents from residents claiming they had occupied the land from 1994 to 1996, but the land was later designated as forest cover under the Forestry Administration.
“Now, it is very difficult for us to get information from relevant authorities. We can only get it from the people as we want to assist them. People cannot afford to hire a lawyer for $1,000 to $2,000 to defend the case for them,” she said.
Provincial Forestry Administration director Dy Sokhom declined to comment.
But according to the provincial hall, a joint task force on October 22 arrested 43 people, eight of them women, at the location.
Six of them were sent to the provincial police for further questioning, while 37 others were reprimanded and made to sign a contract with the commune chief before being released.
The provincial hall said questioning had revealed that the people, some of whom were from other provinces, were cheated by a broker who told them to clear the forest to share the land.
It called on all citizens not to be deceived by brokers who incite them to encroach on forest and private land claiming it as their own as well as using violence against civil officials which would result in legal action.