In an unusual turn of events, over 350 people in the village and commune of Sre Chis in O’Krieng Senchey district, Kratie province, have damaged a ranger station. The incident occurred on August 5, with no casualties reported.
Sim Panha, the O’Krieng Senchey district police chief, told The Post on August 6 that the villagers had set fire to the ranger station’s gate, restroom, and chicken cage.
While he declined to delve into the details of the case, he confirmed that no arrests have been made. After the incident, the villagers returned to their homes on the same day.
“We need to investigate more and we don’t have an update on the cases so far. No one was arrested,” he said.
Local media sources claimed that the villagers were upset with environment officials, whom they said have confiscated their chainsaws, which are used to cut trees to build fences for their farms and outdoor kitchens.
A local villager, preferring to remain anonymous, said the environment officials had prevented them from cutting small trees to build kitchens, cattle yards, or fences around their rice fields.
He revealed: “The official had no understanding and demanded that they pay a fine when caught, but this strict law enforcement is not applied to the big timber traders”.
Chhay Duong Savuth, of the Kratie provincial department of environment, told The Post that the villagers claimed they had acted to exercise their rights, a claim he rejected.
“If we listen only to their side, we can say they have the rights to act that way. But what law allows them to do that? The case began with law enforcement by the officials, and that’s when people started to get angry and accuse the environment officials of oppression. We don’t put pressure on them, and we’re not biased; we’re simply enforcing the law,” he said.
However, Savuth mentioned that he could not determine which side was right or wrong, as an investigation is still underway.
Neth Pheaktra, the Environment Ministry’s spokesman, confirmed that the ministry is indeed investigating the case.