A village-based human rights monitor in Ratanakkiri province was threatened with having his house burned down following the confiscation of illegally felled timber in the province’s Voeun Sai district, police and local rights group Adhoc said.
Ton Son, 32, a volunteer monitor with Adhoc, said that while he was not at home on Wednesday an unidentified man approached his wife and said: “Be careful; stop reporting about logging. Now my logs have been taken. I will set you and your house on fire.”
“I’m pretty sure that one of the loggers is unhappy…. I just reported about forestry crimes to the upper levels of the rights group. I am not scared of anything, but I am worried about my family,” Mr Son said by telephone on Friday.
Provincial and district Forestry Administration officials uncovered around 20 cubic meters of illegally logged luxury timber of the much-sought-after Beng and Thnong species during an operation in Pakalan commune on Wednesday, commune police chief Say Bong said.
The police chief said that he interviewed the Adhoc monitor on Friday and it was clear the threat was made by an illegal logger operating in Voeun Sai district, and likely the one that had his stash of wood seized during the week.
“If the perpetrator is an illegal logger, he must be prosecuted for two serious crimes: illegally logging luxury-grade wood, and making death threats,” Mr Bong said.
Adhoc provincial monitor Chhay Thy said that such threats were common and the intimidation experienced by those who expose the truth about the rampant illegal logging in the provinces is compounded by the fact that the business is protected by high-ranking officials who profit by turning a blind eye to the
“Illegal loggers are not scared to log unlawfully or to intimidate and threaten to burn down a human rights worker’s home,” Mr Thy said.
More than 600 cut logs of luxury wood, measuring between one and two meters in length, were discovered in Voeun Sai district’s Pong commune earlier this week during an operation led by the Forestry Administration’s new chief, Vong Sok Serei, who recently replaced Ty Sokhun after he was fired by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Provincial Forestry Adminitration Deputy Chief Hong Phea said on Friday that the haul of wood was found but the loggers were not.
“It is quite hard to identify the loggers,” Mr Phea said.
Voeun Sai district police chief Poeu Nouthang denied the charge by Adhoc of collusion between officials and loggers.
“Everyone is working hard to protect the forest,” he said, promising also to investigate the threat against the Adhoc monitor.