Mondolkiri provincial villagers on Tuesday accused authorities there of colluding with a development company involved in serious deforestation.
The Phnong minority villagers say the wife of the deputy provincial governor owns the company, Villas Development, which is allegedly involved in illegal logging.
“We have patrolled the forest many times and witnessed serious illegal logging by the company,” said Mor Ar Ngom Laoka, a forestry activist from the province. Authorities from the community to the provincial level have helped the loggers, she said.
“A lot of big trucks, we see hundreds of them when we patrolling the forest,” she said. “We cannot do anything, because most of us are women. So many times we have filed complaints to related provincial institutions, but we’ve seen no action from them. The authorities tell us to stay out of the company’s activities or face trouble.”
Nhoronh Khut, another villager representative, said community members have seized chainsaws from logging operations and handed them over to authorities.
“A few days later, they return those machines to the company,” Nhoronh Khut said. “Our forest is on the way to extinction. We spend our own many to protect our forest. They have never helped, but warned us to stay away.”
The activists spoke Tuesday at the headquarters of the rights group Adhoc, in Phnom Penh. Adhoc says at least 110 forestry activists are currently under threat, through lawsuit, violence or arrest, in the province.
Ny Chakrya, Adhoc’s lead monitor, said authorities help the company, and both earn profits from the forest.
Villas Development is reportedly owned by the wife of Yoem Luch, Mondolkiri’s deputy governor. The company was granted 718 hectares of land to development rubber in Sokhdom commune, according to Adhoc. Yoem Luch could not be reached for comment.
In Iev, commune chief of Sokhdom, said authorities have not threatened villagers.
“We have been working to cooperate with them when they report to us about deforestation,” he said. “I don’t know about illegal logging. I’ve just seen the company start planning rubber trees.”