Community forest monitors in Oddar Meanchey province said this week they were attacked Thursday by 30 RCAF soldiers in Samraong City after trying to remove relatives of the soldiers who villagers say were illegally squatting in a protected area.
Sa Thlai, chief of the province’s 13 community forests, said the monitors were to file a legal complaint today against the soldiers and their superior, RCAF 1st Company commander Nuth Sarith, with the provincial governor, provincial military police and Siem Reap provincial court.
“I want to ask the military police to investigate…because they used violence against us,” Mr Thlai said.
He said about 200 families, including 20 families of RCAF soldiers stationed in the area, have allegedly been living illegally on the protected land in Samraong City’s Bansay Reak commune since July. When Mr Thlai and 10 other monitors, accompanied by Forestry Administration officials, started asking the families to thumbprint documents agreeing they would move, Mr Thlai said, the RCAF soldiers fired dozens of rounds into the air before proceeding to beat five of them with sticks.
Mr Thlai, who claimed Mr Sarith was present at the attack and tried to stop it, said he was struck on the back while escaping by motorbike.
Malis Hoeuth, chief of the Ramduol Veasna community forest in Bansay Reak commune, said he was beaten on the leg and body even though some of the soldiers attempted to prevent their colleagues from attacking.
Khun Sophea, Forestry Administration chief for Samraong City, said he had written a report on the incident and sent it to the administration’s office in Phnom Penh.
“We request that those illegally settled there leave and their huts be destroyed,” Mr Sophea said.
Neither Mr Sarith nor Mok Sovann, RCAF commander in Oddar Meanchey province, could be reached for comment.
Provincial governor Pich Sokhin said he was unaware of the alleged attack but that his staff would investigate.
“If they were beating the villagers who protect the forest, they are wrong,” he said.