R’kiri Timber Swiped as Gov’t Snoozes, Villagers Say

Human rights workers in Ratanakkiri province yesterday accused forestry officials in Veun Sai district of negligence after a pile of illegally cut timber in their care disappeared on Friday.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the human rights group Adhoc, said that half of the 167 timber pieces, which were discovered by ethnic Lao villagers in Pong commune, were transported by Forestry Administration officials to the local office on Thursday. On Friday, the remaining pieces of timber were gone, he said.

“The timber was gone because local authorities did not cooperate with us,” Mr Bonnar said. “We knew that the timbers would disappear the next day because no officials guarded them.”

Adhoc activist Chuon Phindara said local authorities were reluctant to guard the wood the Forestry Administration had left behind.

“I tried to call several officials for intervention but the calls went unheeded,” he said.

Keo Vuth, the Forestry Administration’s deputy division chief for O’Chum, Taveng and Veun Sai districts, said the administration could not remove all the wood on Thursday because it did not have enough available vehicles.

“We could not find another vehicle at that time,” he said.

Mr Vuth added that the Forestry Administration has been searching for the missing wood and referred all other questions to his chief, Vong Soumethy. Mr Soumethy could not be reached for comment.

Veun Sai District Governor Chum Ngil defended the actions of the authorities, rejecting claims that they were reluctant to crack down on illegal logging.

“We always cooperate and take action whenever there are requests,” he said.


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