Court officials in Kratie province are investigating claims that a pair of powerful businessmen have cleared nearly 3,000 hectares of state forest once used by more than 900 families as a source of food and revenue.
Pen Bonnar, community program officer for rights group Adhoc, lodged a complaint with the provincial court on behalf of the families earlier this year and has since been summoned to appear for questioning on August 11, according to Hak Hoan, a deputy prosecutor at the Kratie Provincial Court.
The accused businessmen—Lim Bunna and Buot Bun Eng—both hold the title of “oknha,” an honorific reserved for those who donate at least $100,000 to the state.
“We cannot accuse the two oknhas of clearing state land if we do not have clear evidence” against them, Mr. Hoan said on Sunday. “Mr. Bonnar could face a lawsuit if the two oknhas file a complaint against him for defamation.”
Mr. Bonnar said he would appear before the court next month with evidence.
“I’m not worried,” he said. “We went to the area and took some photographs of the clearing activity.”
Mr. Bonnar said the businessmen began clearing the 3,000-hectare forest in Prek Prasap district last year—for unknown purposes—and had already nearly finished, wiping out the resin trees and wild animals that local residents had relied on for years.
Mr. Bunna and Mr. Bun Eng could not be reached for comment.