Border police in Ratanakkiri province on Thursday handed back the luxury wood and motorbikes they seized from ethnic minority Jarai villagers after their office was besieged by the villagers, who came with axes and machetes to take the items back.
Lieutenant Colonel Van Nara, commander of the province’s Border Police Unit 102, said local military police officers on Thursday morning confiscated six pieces of luxury-grade Thnong wood and 10 motorbikes from the villagers at their homes on suspicion that the wood had been logged illegally.
But he said officers gave back everything after about 60 armed and angry villagers showed up demanding their return.
“We decided to give the motorbikes and Thnong back to the villagers because we didn’t want any violence with them,” Lt. Col. Nara said.
“We will investigate whether it was a mistake by the military police…or if the wood was illegally logged.”
Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the ethnic minority communities had the right to log their community forests for their personal needs, but not to sell.