Young Environmental Activist Attacked; Loggers Suspected

An environmental activist on patrol in the Prey Lang Forest in Kratie province was attacked with a machete as she slept on Sunday, just hours after she and her cohorts seized half a dozen chainsaws from a group of loggers pillaging a grove of valuable hardwood.

The activist, 22-year-old Phorn Sopheak, was one of about 60 members of the Prey Lang Community Network who began to scour a small section of the 650,000-hectare forest in Sambor district’s Boeng Char commune early last week, according to network coordinator Thai Bunleang.

On Saturday, the last day of the patrol, they found six chainsaws amid a patch of felled Thnong trees but saw no loggers and so took the tools with them, adding them to the 12 they had already confiscated, Mr. Bunleang said. Then, in the early hours of Sunday, an unknown man snuck up on Ms. Sopheak as she slept in the forest and struck her foot with a machete, retreating into the brush when she woke with a scream, he said.

“We have concluded that whoever attacked her was from the last group of loggers. When the activists confiscated their chainsaws, they wanted revenge,” Mr. Bunleang said, adding that he informed commune police about the incident on Sunday.

Commune authorities could not be reached on Monday, but Bun Chhoeun, the Sambor district police chief, said he had heard about the attack and ordered his officers to investigate.

Speaking from a private clinic in Kratie City, Ms. Sopheak said the machete blade entered the bottom of her right foot and sliced through several bones, nearly severing the appendage entirely.

“It was about 1 a.m., and I was sleeping in a hammock and the suspect just came and chopped at my feet. Then I shouted for help, and the suspect escaped,” she said, adding that doctors had told her that she would not be able to leave the facility for at least a week.

The activist said that the attack only strengthened her resolve.

“Even though this happened, I’m not afraid. If I were afraid, I would not be a member of the Prey Lang network.”

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