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Villagers, Forestry Administration square off in Mondulkiri

People protest at a Forestry Administration nursery in Mondulkiri last week after a teenager was pursued for transporting illegal timber. Adhoc
People protest at a Forestry Administration nursery in Mondulkiri last week after a teenager was pursued for transporting illegal timber. Adhoc

Villagers, Forestry Administration square off in Mondulkiri

Some 100 villagers from Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima district protested outside a Forestry Administration nursery on Saturday calling for two rangers who chased an underage illegal timber hauler to be fired.

Mech Rithy, father of Huot Chanthoeun, 15, said his son agreed to haul two illegally felled logs to a Vietnamese buyer for $15 so he could purchase a school uniform and study materials.

Rithy estimated that 90 per cent of people in the area transported illegal wood via motorbike and paid the FA officials up to $5 for each trip.

Chanthoeun didn’t pay the bribe “because the logs were small”, and when he passed the nursery station, the two officers chased him into a cassava plantation.

The boy then left his motorbike and fled into the forest.

When Chanthoeun’s angry neighbours went to collect the abandoned bike, one of the officers took out a gun to scare the villagers, then the two drove away in a Lexus.

The villagers have asked their chief to take legal action. “They mistreat only normal villagers, but do not intercept any prominent traders. It is not fair,” Rithy said.

Sok Rotha, Mondulkiri provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said more than 20 villagers filed a thumbprinted complaint asking the rights NGO to intervene.

He said the villagers wanted the FA to be more consistent in their application of the law and also stop seizing their motorbikes and demanding up to $300 for their return.

Keo Seima Forestry Administration director Chuy Sokheang, the boss of the two officers, denied the allegations. “[The villagers] are furious because we intercepted them,” he said.

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