Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Extortion claims rejected in Mondulkiri




Extortion claims rejected in Mondulkiri

Illegal timber being hidden in water from the authorities during a recent crackdown in Mondulkiri province that provoked accusations of extortion. Photo supplied.
Illegal timber being hidden in water from the authorities during a recent crackdown in Mondulkiri province that provoked accusations of extortion. Photo supplied.

Extortion claims rejected in Mondulkiri

A deputy district governor in Mondulkiri province’s Koh Nhek district yesterday denied allegations that he tried to extort villagers during a timber crackdown last week, while an environmental official filed a criminal complaint against the villagers.

Last week, some 200 ethnic Phnong villagers in the district launched a protest following an armed seizure of timber, accusing authorities of demanding money in exchange for the return of the lumber and firing a warning shot during the crackdown.

A villager representative at the time insisted officials had tried to extort the villagers and had searched homes without a warrant. A police official quoted then confirmed both the warning shot, and that one trader had paid $250 and been allowed to keep his wood.

But Deputy Governor Nut Boeun, who led the crackdown, yesterday denied any wrongdoing.“The allegation is not true. It is an illegal allegation of the illegal timber traders . . . they are not innocent people,” Boeun said.

In a police report filed after the incident, Boeun acknowledged the warning shot but maintained it was warranted.

“Before the wildlife sanctuary forces arrived, [alleged timber trader] Khun Hoeun and seven to eight of his accomplices grabbed one soldier and tried to take his weapon while some of them threw the stones,” the January 27 report reads.

“Because the situation was uncontrollable, one soldier shot into the sky once and they unhanded the soldier,” the report continues.

The statement claims authorities found 100 planks of illegal timber, presumably destined to be trafficked to Vietnam, at the home of Hoeun. Boeun then called authorities from the Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary, because the village was within the protected zone.

Din Bun Thoeun, director of the Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary, said he filed a criminal complaint against Hoeun on Tuesday for obstructing officials from enforcing the law.

“Khun Hoeun is the initiator, and he tried to stop the officials from fulfilling their tasks . . . The court will interrogate him,” Thoeun said.

Thoeun also claimed that the protesting villagers tried to prevent his men from leaving the area with the confiscated timber, constructing a roadblock and continuing to throw rocks.

A member of the community, who wish to remain anonymous, maintained yesterday that none of the villagers were responsible for the logging, instead maintaining it was Vietnamese traders coming from across the border.

Sok Rotha, Mondulkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the organisation received a complaint from the villagers on Tuesday. Rotha said he would follow up with authorities to find a solution.

“The community accused the deputy governor of intimidation, illegally seizing the property, extortion,” he said, relaying a claim by the villagers that the wood was not illegal.

MOST VIEWED

  • Gov’t exempts visa A and B holders from Covid fees

    Airline passengers who are diplomats and officials of international organisations holding Type A and B visas for travel to Cambodia are exempted from paying Covid-19 testing fees, said the Ministry of Health in its latest adjustment of rules on Wednesday. Health Minister Mam Bun Heng

  • All inbound flights set to face added scrutiny

    Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said on Monday that the ministry is monitoring all inbound flights, after it was announced that only those from Malaysia and Indonesia will be temporarily cancelled from August 1. Vandine said on Monday that the two countries were identified as

  • Flights from Indonesia, Malaysia cancelled

    A Ministry of Health official has warned of the possibility of Covid-19 spreading through community transmission after the total infected cases in the Kingdom rose to 225. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told reporters on Saturday that the possibility of community transmission cannot be overlooked and that