Ethnic minority villagers in Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat district confiscated around three cubic meters of luxury wood on Sunday from illegal loggers who claimed they were connected to police and military police, a villager representative and an official said yesterday.
“It’s really funny that the loggers tried to intimidate a community that is working to protect the forest instead of being afraid,” said Pang Hiem, a representative of the Prov villagers in Lbaing I commune.
Mr Hiem added that the seizure took place while more than a dozen community members were patrolling the forest on Sunday night.
The illegal loggers escaped but the luxury wood is being kept at the village chief’s house as evidence, Mr Hiem said.
“It is not the first time my people have stopped illegal logging and collected the illegal logs,” commune chief Bev Vil said yesterday, adding that last year more than 12 cubic meters of first and second grade timber, worth approximately $10,000, was confiscated in the commune. The government declared a moratorium on logging in 2002. Felling luxury timber is also illegal.
Mr Vil said he is planning to report the incident to district and provincial authorities in order to act against the loggers who are threatening to harm community members.
Provincial police chief Ray Rai said it was unlikely that his officers are logging illegally. He added that since former provincial governor Kham Khoeun was sent to prison in 2006 after being found guilty of illegal logging, officials in the province would not dare take part in such activities.
In unrelated case in Veun Sai district, Adhoc provincial coordinator Pen Bonnar said yesterday that community members saw a truck driving in the area with more than 30 cubic meters of luxury wood on Wednesday.
“The communities are now patrolling deep into the jungle because they believe the truck is still in there after the driver escaped from the community on Wednesday,” he said.
District police chief Poeu Nouthang said yesterday that he was not in Veun Sai district, but that in general, “my officers are there to help find the trucks that are loading the illegal logs.”