Source : Phnom Penh Post
The Kampong Cham commune council in Kratie province’s Sambo district is representing 1,294 families to lodge a complaint against Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary head Nhem Visal for abusing villagers and allowing traders to haul timber illegally.
Kampong Cham commune chief Chhit Nan said Sunday that 1,294 families have thumbprinted the complaint to the provincial governor, demanding Visal’s removal.
“I hope the provincial governor will not stay silent because the people in the commune have been facing hardship because of the abuse. I represent the local authorities and if I don’t help the people, who will?” he asked.
Dated September 20 and seen by The Post on Sunday, the complaint said Visal had deployed armed forces in the commune to extort money from villagers who hauled firewood from the forest.
“In the past, his officers arrested and abused a village chief’s son and threatened to shoot him when he hauled timber without paying them.”
“They also arrested, physically abused and handcuffed people for not paying them. Their actions have badly affected the people’s livelihood,” read the complaint.
Provincial department director Chhay Duongsavuth dismissed the complaint as a false accusation. “There’s nothing to solve in this case. I will make a report to clarify it.
“It’s not like what they said. They trade in wild animals and when the environment authorities stop their illicit activities in accordance with the law, the villagers hurl accusations of being oppressed and handcuffed.”
“I have enough proof but I cannot talk on the phone because you might record my voice. If you want detailed information, you can come to the Kratie provincial environment department,” he said, declining to comment further.
A newly appointed provincial administration director, who declined to give his name, echoed Duongsavuth’s account.
“If you want to know, you have to make a field visit. You will see what people in the area are actually doing. The environment authority just stopped [their illicit activities], educated them and did not threaten them,” he said.
He said people in the commune had logged trees in the protected forest and built cottages to settle down there.
“They encroached on the forest without knowing it is a protected area. The environment authorities did not threaten them. When they violated the law, authorities just educated them,” he said.
Deputy provincial governor Khan Chamnan said he is unaware of the complaint. “I have not seen the complaint yet,” he said.