Patrol Detains Illegal Loggers in Preah Vihear

Five men accused of illegal logging in the Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary after being caught by a joint patrol of authorities, villagers and monks should be charged with deforestation, a Preah Vihear provincial prosecutor said on Tuesday.

The Sunday patrol to root out illegal loggers came across five men and a woman illegally cutting down a kaki tree, provincial environment department director Ea Sokha said. The woman escaped while the group scoured the forest for additional loggers, and she is being sought, he said.

The patrol involved more than 80 people, including 35 monks, Mr. Sokha said.

Contacted on Tuesday, provincial court prosecutor Ly Lon said he had recommended that the five loggers—Voeun Tonh, 47; Nget Theary, 28; Vith Rith, 37; Pang Thea, 35 and Phoung An, 28—be charged with illegal logging.

“I gave the recommendation to charge the five loggers with deforestation by using a chainsaw and they were sent to the investigating judge to be detained,” he said.

Mr. Sokha said that all five had come from Kampot province and were sent to the provincial prison last night pending further questioning by Investigating Judge Sai Norith.

Preah Roka made headlines a year ago when a police officer and a Forestry Administration ranger were fatally shot during an overnight patrol for illegal loggers.

Five civilians and a soldier were swiftly arrested in the shooting, but were charged only with illegal logging. A second soldier was also arrested as a suspect and has begun serving a 10-year prison sentence for an unrelated robbery conviction he had received in absentia in 2001.

Mr. Sokha said on Tuesday that authorities have yet to locate the killer or killers and that those arrested were still awaiting trial.

“We have not yet found the killer, but the arrested people are still in prison and some of them were charged with a forest crime and some were charged with threatening to kill our officials,” he said.

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