R’kiri Logging Protesters To Heed Ban on March

A protest march in Ratanakkiri province against illegal logging that was planned for today has been banned, officials said Monday.

Adhoc provincial coordinator Pen Bonnar said more than 300 people, community leaders and villagers from the province will heed the ban issued by provincial Governor Muong Poy, but now plan to hold a meeting at his office in Banlung town on Friday.

In December, a peaceful march in Banlung against illegal logging was suppressed by police, who used water cannons from two fire trucks to disperse more than 160 rights workers and land-grab victims, Pen Bonnar said.

“Now we listen to the governor’s order not to march,” Pen Bonnar said of today’s canceled march. But, he added, “it doesn’t mean we stop demanding the end of illegal logging.”

In return for not marching, Muong Poy has promised to hold a joint workshop between community members, human rights organizations and law enforcement officers on illegal logging, Pen Bonnar said.

The meeting is tentatively scheduled for early June, he said.

The gesture helps “to prove [Muong Poy’s] support in ending illegal logging and community deforestation,” he added.

Muong Poy could not be reached for comment, but acting Provincial Governor Chey Sayoeun on Monday confirmed that the workshop will take place.

“Officials will meet with people to answer questions and clarify people’s suspicions,” Chey Sayoeun said, noting that district governors will also attend the meeting.

Chhouk Savath, a representative of 278 families disputing the ownership of more than 100 hec­tares of land in Bokeo district’s Lung Khung commune, said he was eager to protest.

“I am ready to take part in the march to ask for my land back,” Chhouk Savath said.

“Hopefully the involved officials will be present at the workshop to respond to my question over the irregularity of selling my community land,” he added.

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