Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers accuse official of logging shakedown



Villagers accuse official of logging shakedown

Villagers accuse official of logging shakedown

Two hundred ethnic Phnong villagers in Mondulkiri’s Koh Nhek district launched a protest on Friday after the deputy district governor and an armed escort seized timber from their homes, before allegedly attempting to extort a bribe for its return.

“People are collecting thumbprints to protest,” said Kreung Tola, who represents the Mondulkiri Provincial Community Network. “[Nut Boeun,] the deputy district governor led the forces to halt the timber with extortion. They searched homes without a warrant.”

A 33-year-old villager, who spoke on condition of anonymity, yesterday said that Boeun led an armed three-man team of military police and soldiers to search homes for timber on Thursday. After discovering the illicit wood, the officials tried to force at least four timber owners to pay $500.

“They could only afford to pay $100. The deputy district governor said that he would not accept $100. So the villagers protested,” they said, adding that a villager named Tong Chan was allowed to keep his wood after paying $250.

A contingent of villagers went to meet with the deputy district governor that night.

“At about 7pm, a soldier fired a shot [in the air],” said the villager.

A police official in Koh Nhek district yesterday confirmed both that a warning shot had been fired and that villager Chan had given the deputy district governor $250 in order to keep his timber.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorised to speak to the media, added that the district governor, Meul Soeung, visited the village on Saturday to solve the issue. But when district authorities returned to the village the next day, they were met by a crowd of 200 protesters.

Yesterday, Soeung said the conflict remained unresolved. “Let expert officials take legal action on the case,” he said before hanging up the telephone.

Boeun and Svay Sam Eang, the provincial governor, could not be reached for comment.

Pen Bonna, senior officer in charge of land and natural resources at rights group Adhoc, said a lack of transparency allowed local officials to use government pushes for tougher law enforcement as an excuse to line their own pockets.

“They will only arrest the people who cannot afford the payment … People have the right to sue those officials,” Bonna said.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • PM asks India for vaccine help

    Prime Minister Hun Sen is seeking assistance from India for the provision of Covid-19 vaccines as the country has produced its own vaccine which is scheduled to be rolled out to more than 300 million Indians this year. The request was made during his meeting with

  • Capital set to beef up security

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng held the first meeting of the year with heads of armed forces in the capital to review and repair the deficiencies related to gun control, drug crimes, social order disruptions due to alcohol consumption and traffic law enforcement. Municipal