Four suspected illegal loggers in the Prey Lang area who are alleged to have tried to strangle Preah Vihear provincial rangers were subsequently released after an elderly father appealed to them on Sunday.
Prasat Phnom Kriel Community Natural Protected Area chief Phok Hong told The Post on Monday that three community members had used personal funds to travel to the protected area via motorbikes and accompany five rangers on patrol.
She said during the patrol, the perpetrators were found sawing wood. Two of them had acted violently against the rangers who seized their six chainsaws.
“The perpetrators strangled the rangers but I did not record it [the attack] because I was too scared. I was the only woman on patrol with the rangers. Our team had eight people and the logging team had four aged about 25 or 26 years old,” Hong said.
She said the rangers handcuffed the suspects after the altercation but released them after one of their fathers appealed for their freedom.
“The loggers are just residents who said they sawed the wood for another person but did not know who the boss was,” Hong said. She said the chainsaws were confiscated and taken to a warehouse in Thmea commune.
“When the chainsaws were seized, they talked to their contact on the phone and informed him of what had happened.
“We did not question them as a fight started. The rangers eventually arrested [the perpetrators] but released them after the elderly father of one of the young men went on his knees to beg for their release.
“We [community members] did not ask for the police force to join the patrol. I have been [patrolling] for almost one year and have never received any funding from other organisations, not even a single riel.
“When I was in the Prey Lang Community Network, I had a budget from various organisations and always invited police officers and paid them to carry out patrols.
“But now I have no funds. So, all I can do is seek cooperation from expert officials because it is their duty [to assist]. Whether I have the funding or not, the officials get paid monthly,” Hong said.
She said following recent crackdowns on forestry crimes, large-scale logging activities in the Prey Lang area had reduced, but small crimes, including forest land encroachment and occupation, were still committed by members of the public and private companies.
Preah Vihear Provincial Department of Environment director Song Chan Socheat said he had not yet received any report of a crackdown on Sunday.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said he could not comment on the matter because he had not been appraised of the incident.
Hong said the Prasat Phnom Kriel Community Natural Protected Area was established about a year ago and conducted patrols once or twice a month.
Source: The Phnom Penh Post