Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers attack officials after logging bust

Villagers attack officials after logging bust

Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary chief Yan Bunsoeung, 42,  was injured after villagers beat him up in retaliation for illegal timber crackdowns on Friday in Preah Vihear province. Photo supplied
Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary chief Yan Bunsoeung, 42, was injured after villagers beat him up in retaliation for illegal timber crackdowns on Friday in Preah Vihear province. Photo supplied

Villagers attack officials after logging bust

Police are investigating after a mob of villagers in Preah Vihear province let fly with fence posts in a clash with environmental officials following a logging bust, leaving the chief of Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary with a serious head injury.

According to accounts, some 300 to 400 people from Po village in Tbeng Meanchey district’s Po commune were present during the Friday-night skirmish, which left 42-year-old sanctuary Director Yan Bunsoeung with a wound near his right ear. However, the events leading up to the violence are disputed, with a villager alleging the officials struck the first blow.

According to the officials’ version, the violence arose in response to a logging bust in a nearby forest, where about half a dozen rangers intercepted eight tractors hauling wood in the late afternoon.

The chief of the Provincial Environment Department, Ear Sokha, said the officials stopped the loggers’ vehicles but, as they were outnumbered, allowed them to continue to the village after they ditched the timber.

Sokha said the officials then followed the men, who he alleged called in backup.

“When they got close to the village, around 200 metres away, they gathered about 300 people and used violence,” Sokha said. “They took out the sticks that are used for fences and threw them towards the officials, hitting [Bunsoeung] on the head.”

Sokha, who said scenes of the clash were captured in mobile phone videos, which he declined to provide, said a few other officials received minor injuries and claimed the sanctuary director was lucky to survive.

“If it had hit him just a finger’s width higher, he would have died,” he said. “We know the suspects and those involved.”

An injured villager photographed after the clash between villagers and environmental officials over timber busts on Friday in Preah Vihear province. Photo supplied
An injured villager photographed after the clash between villagers and environmental officials over timber busts on Friday in Preah Vihear province. Photo supplied

However, witness and Po village resident Pa Sophal described a different version of events in an interview by phone yesterday.

Sophal said there were seven, not eight, trucks driven by loggers, which he said became stuck in mud near the village.

He said the drivers had “agreed” with officials to ditch the timber and return home, though tension heightened later in the evening when, at around 8pm, Bunsoeung and the team returned and allegedly assaulted some of the men after trying to elicit bribes.

“The environmental chief came in a car, drunk, with a karaoke girl,” Sophal said, claiming the officer threatened to seize the tractors unless a bribe was paid.

“They agreed to pay between $75 and $100, but the officials did not agree because it was too little. At the same time, one truck driver tried to get his truck, but he was beaten by the officials, who hit, kicked and handcuffed him and put him in the mud.”

A photo from the village showed a local man with a bloodied face with handcuffs on one wrist.

Sophal claimed “two or three” other men were also assaulted by the officials, claiming the alleged violence inflicted by the officials and a growing frustration with logging-related extortion set villagers off.

“When the villager handcuffed in the mud cried out, people just came in. Some used sticks to throw at them, but we didn’t know who was hit because there were 300 to 400 people,” he said.

Deputy Tbeng Meanchey District Police Chief Som Hai said officers had questioned two of the tractor drivers, who claimed not to be involved, adding he expected the environmental officials to file a complaint over the incident.

“We are investigating the case,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the

  • S’ville set to turn into ‘second Shenzhen’

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance has awarded a master plan consultancy contract to top Chinese institute for the development and transformation of Preah Sihanouk province into a “Model Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zone”, Southeast Asia’s next logistics and resort hub and innovation centre. The