Two people who allegedly scuffled with Forestry Administration officials after the officials evicted more than 50 families in Siem Reap province on Tuesday have been charged with a forestry crime and jailed, an official said Thursday.
Tea Kimsoth, chief of the Forestry Administration’s Siem Reap cantonment, said his officers oversaw the eviction of the families from their farms in Angkor Thom district’s Peak Sneng commune on Tuesday morning. He said police and military police also helped remove the community, which he accused of squatting on some 100 hectares of public land and clearing forest to build their homesteads.
“In the morning, after we finished removing the people and their houses, a group of villagers used their motorbikes to block our truck,” Mr. Kimsoth said.
“When we asked them why they stopped us, they yelled at us and were holding machetes and big sticks and wanted to attack us,” he said. “I think they were angry and wanted to show us their anger, and there was a short scuffle.”
Mr. Kimsoth said the protest was led by three locals and that authorities arrested two of them—Key Doek, 47, and Puth Kuchiem, 27—while the third escaped. He said Ms. Doek and Mr. Kuchiem, who had been acting aggressively during the demonstration, were then sent to the court, charged with illegally clearing state land under the Forestry Law and sent to prison.
Mr. Kimsoth said authorities first ordered the families to leave their farms in Peak Sneng commune about two months ago.
“Before we evicted them, we informed them over a week ago that the area where they live and farm is land owned by the state, and that their clearing of the forest there was illegal,” he said.
Chan Chuon, a 43-year-old banana and sugarcane farmer, said he had been living in the area for 13 years before authorities torched his crops, and that the ensuing protest was never intended to be violent.
“We went to block them because we want to ask them to find a suitable solution or other land for us,” he said. “We held machetes and big sticks, but we had no intention to attack them.”