Areng Valley Activist Denies Illegal Logging Allegations

An environmental activist in Koh Kong province’s Areng Valley on Monday denied building an ecotourism information center with illegally logged wood after he was summoned to the local court to answer questions over alleged forestry crimes.

Ven Vorn, 36—who is ethnic Chong and worked closely with recently deported Spanish activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson to oppose a planned hydropower dam in the valley—has been summoned to appear before the Koh Kong Provincial Court on March 10.

Despite the summons stating clearly that the Forestry Administration’s Koh Kong cantonment filed a complaint against Mr. Vorn in January, the cantonment chief, Oum Meakeary, denied any involvement. Rights workers with knowledge of the case say the administration accuses him of cutting down trees inside a protected forest for the information center.

“I did not commit what I am accused of,” Mr. Vorn said Monday.

“The timber I bought from local residents for building a community office for ecotourism.”

The activist said construction of the center began in January and finished Tuesday, using just 10 cubic meters of wood and at a cost of $1,500. Mr. Vorn said he would heed the summons.

“I am not afraid of being arrested because I acted in the public’s interest, not my personal interest.”

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