NGO: Kratie Minority Villagers Illegally Detained

NGO workers said Sunday that three ethnic minority villagers in Kratie province have been illegally detained for one month, accused of clearing half a hectare of forest.

Human rights workers claimed the three are being persecuted while powerful individuals are free to clear land in the province as they choose.

Chuon Chan Dach, of Snuol district, was jailed at the provincial prison on Feb 6 along with his wife, son and son-in-law, though the 15-year-old son was released two weeks ago due to his age, said Ek Yothin, NGO Forum’s indigenous minority rights project officer.

“The arrest was made illegally, be­cause there was no arrest warrant,” Ek Yothin said. “They have been de­tain­ed in prison illegally without trial.” Ek Yothin added that Chuon Chan Dach, who he said previously campaigned to protect forest in the district from destruction, legitimately cleared a modest amount of land.

“His right to clear land for shifting cultivation is protected under the 2001 Land Law,” Ek Yothin said.

But Snuol district governor Iv Saphum said Chuon Chan Dach had been legitimately arrested for a se­­ries of forestry crimes. “He always in­cites other people to grab forest in var­ious places to clear for business activities,” the governor said.

Ek Yothin said that although Chu­on Chan Dach’s clearing is le­g­al, a large adjacent acacia plantation in the same district is allegedly illegal.

“Land in the same district is clear­ed on a much larger scale by powerful and well-connected people,” Ek Yo­thin said.

Both Iv Saphum and Kratie prov­in­cial forestry administration Chief Chheang Tola denied any knowledge of the acacia plantation.

A 50-year-old resident of Prek Kdei village in Snuol commune, where Chuon Chan Dach is from, said that more than 100 villagers have thumbprinted a complaint to be sent to provincial and forestry ad­ministration officials.

“He was arrested because he has been working hard for forestry protection,” the woman said on condition of anonymity.

“He confiscated a lot of machines and chainsaws from smugglers who are relatives of commune and district authorities,” she added.


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