Rights Officer Testifies About Illegal Forest Clearing

An officer for the rights group Adhoc testified on Thursday in support of a court complaint accusing a pair of powerful businessmen of illegally clearing more than 3,000 hectares of state forest in Kratie province.

Pen Bonnar, who filed the complaint earlier this year on behalf of some 900 families affected by the development, told the provincial court that he learned about the situation while attending a training course earlier this year.

According to Mr. Bonnar, businessmen Lim Bunna and Buot Bun Eng began clearing a swath of state forest in Prek Prasap district last year and have since planted 3,210 hectares with rubber trees, wiping out the resin trees and wild animals that locals had relied on.

“I told the court that I went to the area recently and saw a luxurious wooden house. I asked some people there, and they told me the house belonged to Oknha Lim Bunna,” he said, using a royally bestowed honorific.

Last week, lawyers for the two businessmen told the court that their clients had no connection to the rubber plantation in question, according to deputy prosecutor Hak Hoan.

“The actions of the Adhoc official are not good because he accused people without proof, and the accusations could affect someone’s honor,” said Mr. Bunna’s lawyer, Sok Chea.

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