Residents of a forest community in Mondulkiri province have accused an environmental official of hiding timber in the forest after he stopped them from retaining the wood in their community until they can identify the owner.
Sokha Thon, a member of the forest community in Andoung Kraloeng village, in O’Raing district’s Sen Monorom commune, told The Post on Wednesday that three residents visited a waterfall the previous day and found planks of timber hidden in the forest around 100m from villagers’ houses.
He reported it to environmental official Chab Kosal who said the timbers did not belong to the environmental office.
Thon then reported it to the village chief and a deputy district chief, who advised the residents to collect the timber to keep at the community, but Kosal disagreed.
“When we were about to take the timber, he stopped us because he said he was the owner. He took the timbers to his office,” Thon said.
He said there were about 10 planks, measuring 2m in length. Some were 10cm thick and some others 30cm to 60cm thick.
The Post could not contact Kosal for comment on Wednesday.
Provincial Department of Environment director Keo Sopheak said residents do not have the right to keep the timber and only environmental officials have this privilege.
The timbers were kept at the environment office, he added.
“According to the law, residents cannot keep the timber. Environmental officials do not let citizens take timber as it is illegal. They are not expert officials. We decided to keep the timber at our office to find out whether it belongs to Kosal or someone else,” he said.