Villagers in Mondolkiri province this week seized four trucks transporting luxury-grade timber out of a plantation they accuse of logging outside its government-granted land concession and turned the haul over to local authorities.
The ethnic minority Banong villagers accuse Villa Development, which owns a local rubber plantation, of logging inside their nominally protected community forests, which carry spiritual significance and help sustain their livelihoods.
Mal Ngon, one of the villagers, said a group of them on Tuesday evening spotted a fleet of the company’s trucks leaving the plantation carrying wood they say had been logged illegally. The villagers then blocked a local road and stopped four of the trucks.
“We saw five trucks driving off the company’s land and driving down a dirt road through our village, and we stopped four of them but the other escaped,” Ms. Ngon said, adding that all the drivers managed to flee.
“We called the provincial Forestry Administration immediately to report our arrest of the trucks, but no one came, so we called the [Sen Monorom] city authorities to come get the trucks,” she said.
Ms. Ngon said the four trucks were loaded with about 10 cubic meters of luxury-grade wood each.
Deputy city governor Malaing Chhorn confirmed that his officers picked up the trucks and said they were sent on to the provincial police on Wednesday.
“We do not know where the trucks were transporting the wood to, but they transported the wood from the company’s land.”
Deputy provincial police chief Ngin Sokphoeun said he knew nothing about the trucks and referred questions to the provincial Forestry Administration office. Provincial Forestry Administration director Kep Koth said he knew nothing about the trucks, either.
The villagers have seized the company’s trucks before and accused it of transporting illegally logged wood. Last month, having lost faith in the commitment of local authorities to help them, they vowed to start burning whatever caches of wood they seized rather than turn them over.