A Ministry of Environment complaint has led to the arrest and charging of five men who allegedly cut trees and cleared forested land in Roniem Daun Sam wildlife sanctuary in Banteay Meanchey province, court and environmental officials said Sunday.
Suspect Tim Pinh and four other men were summoned to provincial court for questioning Tuesday and were arrested the same day, said a judge who asked not to be named.
“Those people were called for a meeting [with Environment Ministry staff] many times for re-education dealing with destruction of the sanctuary’s forest,” the judge said. “But they ignored the call, which is why the complaint was filed against them.”
Tep Kunnal, governor of Malai district where the sanctuary is located, said the five men have also been accused of forming an illegal armed group as they used guns to force local villagers to clear the forest since 2004.
The judge said he was unaware of any such charge.
Tep Kunnal said the arrests might serve as a warning to others who have been clearing the sanctuary’s forests, adding district authorities are looking for a place to relocate 150 families living in the protected area.
“We are looking for land in other parts of the district to relocate them, otherwise those people will continue clearing the forest,” he said.
Tep Kunnal and Puth Chuop, director of the provincial environment department, said more than 200 hectares of forested sanctuary land had been cleared since late 2004.
Puth Chuop said the trees were not being cut to build shelters or to clear land for farms as the people already had both.
“They might clear the forest to grab the land for business activities because they are not poor people,” he said.