planned action in which about 500 villagers from four provinces would attempt to stop illegal logging and the transportation of timber from land concession areas in Prey Long forest was called off yesterday, according to villagers and an organizer, but reasons for the cancellation differed.
Chut Wutty, director of the Natural Resource Protection Group, said the plan had been for the villagers, from Kompong Thom, Preah Vihear, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces, to stop the transport of illegally logged wood and the transport of timber from land concession areas by CRCK, a Vietnamese rubber company, by blocking a road leading to the forest.
But the action did not go ahead, he said, “because local and international NGOs didn’t support [transporting and providing food for] the villagers.”
He named the local Community Peace-Building Network and East-West Management Institute, a USAID-funded group, as encouraging “meetings, not action.”
He alleged yesterday that the groups had organized a meeting on Sept 22, during which they urged villagers to stage the protest, but yesterday did an about-face. “They lied to the local community,” Mr Wutty said.
EWMI and the CPN could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Reached by telephone yesterday, Sim Sian, who said he was representing the villagers, said: “We all arrived at Prey Long, but we could not make the protest…because of flooding, so we canceled.” Mr Sian said some of the roads and paths leading to the intended staging site had been destroyed.
He added that local NGOs had been invited to monitor the action, but “some NGOs didn’t come to support us…. We can not protest without NGO or reporters [present], because we are afraid of violence from the authorities.”
Keo Soy, from Preah Vihear province, said villagers were trying to take things into their own hands. “[The authorities] refused to prevent [logging] in Prey Long…. They said we shouldn’t waste our time.”
Mr Sian said the villagers were planning another action nearer the end of the month.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)