Villagers Detain Suspected Illegal Loggers

A team of ethnic minority Banong villagers in Mondolkiri province detained a group of Vietnamese men on Saturday, who they suspect of illegally logging inside their community forest, and have handed them over to local police.

Khut Chanra said he was among about 60 fellow Banong villagers in Pech Chreada district who had been alerted by the sound of chainsaws in the forest and gathered to investigate. He said they came across the group of more than 20 illegal loggers at work at a spot about 20 km from the Vietnamese border and detained 15 of them while the rest escaped on foot.

They also confiscated about eight cubic meters of first-grade Koki wood, four trucks, nine motorcycles, seven chainsaws and an assault rifle.

“All the property that we confiscated from them was taken for keeping at the environment department and the suspects were taken for questioning at the [commune] police station,” Mr. Chanra said.

He said the villagers had been tracking the loggers for the past two years but had not detained any of them until now because the loggers were armed and the villagers outnumbered.

Bosra commune deputy police chief Klang Chou said the alleged loggers were brought to the station Saturday afternoon but could not be questioned because they spoke only Vietnamese.

“They are Vietnamese, so it’s hard to understand them,” he said. “That night the provincial police came to take them to the provincial police station.”

Provincial police could not be reached for comment.

Sok Ratha, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he was investigating the case and confirmed that the 15 alleged loggers were still being held for questioning at the provincial police headquarters as of Sunday afternoon.

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