Six Pursat province forestry administration officials were charged Saturday with intentionally killing a man they suspected of illegal logging in the province’s Bakan district, provincial Prosecutor Top Chansereyvuth said.
Ham Bathea, 29, was shot and killed when forestry officials opened fire on a car in which he was a backseat passenger in the early hours of Saturday morning, Pursat provincial police chief Hem Vuthea said.
Two other men, Liv Hong, 20 and Chum Sakhon, 24, who were in the front seats, sped away from the scene; Ham Bathea died about one hour later, Hem Vuthea said.
The six officers involved in the incident were on duty in the forest near Kat Kralanh village in Trapaing Chong commune, where a crackdown on illegal logging is being undertaken by the provincial Forestry Department, he said.
“We have charged six forestry officials and five of them are being detained in Pursat provincial prison,” Top Chansereyvuth said.
One forestry official is still at large, he said.
Two AK-47 rifles, a pistol and three cars owned by the forestry officials were confiscated after the incident, he added.
Bakan district police deputy chief Chea Arun said the men in the car had a history of involvement in the illegal logging trade.
Forestry officials were pursuing several cars suspected of being involved in illegal logging when the car carrying Ham Bathea blocked the road, prompting the forestry officials to open fire, Chea Arun said.
Chea Arun described the situation with illegal logging in Bakan district as “anarchic.”
Seng Vesna, a villager in the area, said gunfire is heard regularly late at night in the forest. Illegal loggers are operating freely and there are not enough forestry officials to deal with them, he said by telephone.
In March, a woman, Pich Srey Mom, 27, was shot dead by a military policeman working for the Forestry Administration during what officials said was an operation against m’reah prov tree oil smuggling in Pursat province.