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Crowd Demands Release of 6 Alleged Loggers

More than 60 villagers gathered in front of the Ministry of Agriculture’s fisheries department office in Battambang province Thursday to demand the release of six people accused of illegal clear-cutting, officials said.

Military police and fisheries department officials arrested the six in Battambang’s Mong Russey district Wednesday, alleging they had illegally clear-cut land for farming, officials said.

Ngorn Chart, 42, a village representative, said the villagers had been using the area for farming since 1992 and the grounds for arrest had no merit.

Heng Piseth, director of the provincial fisheries office, said the suspects had cleared the land for farming, but it was meant as a site for fish to spawn.

In Kong Chhit, an investigator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said villagers had proposed to their commune chief to keep the land for farming.

He would further investigate the arrests, he said.