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

  • Man Covid-19 positive after Thailand trip

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday reported the third Covid-19 case in less than two weeks, bringing the total to 125. The man, a 26-year-old from Tbong Khmum province's Tbong Khmum district, arrived at the O'Beichoan border checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province on Thursday. He is

  • Kingdom's GDP growth to narrow -1% to -2.9%, World Bank says

    The World Bank expects further recoil on Cambodia’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth to between minus one per cent and minus 2.9 per cent for 2020 as its main growth drivers – tourism, manufacturing exports and construction – take a beating due to Covid-19, its latest economic update

  • Vietnam: Tougher sentences for child abusers

    Several National Assembly (NA) deputies in Vietnam are calling for tougher penalties to be handed down to child abusers. They hope stricter punishments will act as a strong deterrent to prevent offenders committing further offences in the future. Extreme measures such as chemical castration were

  • Central bank to shun small US banknotes

    The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) is considering not accepting smaller denominated US dollar banknotes – $1, $2 and $5 – from banks and microfinance institutions (MFIs) which it said are flooding its stockpile as the demand for those notes is low. While some banking insiders welcomed the move as

  • PM lauded in Covid-19 fight

    World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen thanking him for following the WHO’s guidance and commending Cambodia’s efforts in the fight against Covid-19. In his letter made public by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

  • Workers return, hope for salaries

    More than 600 factory workers in the capital’s Chaom Chao commune in Por Sen Chey district returned to work after the factory’s owner promised to pay their salaries in instalments until the middle of next month. On Tuesday and Wednesday, more than 600 workers gathered