Military police in Stung Treng province have detained an environmental NGO worker after locals in Baray district accused him of extorting money from them as they transported legal wood for farming.
A Baray district military police report identified the NGO worker as Sorn Savuth, 42, the Kampong Thom branch manager for the Kandal-based Forest, Animal and Environment Organisation. He was arrested on Saturday.
District and provincial military police could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Touch Nora, director of the NGO, said his staff member was a devoted environmentalist who was just doing his job on a mission to Stung Treng.
“I really regret that the people and the military police targeted someone who advocates for the protection of the environment while the real timber traders always go free,” he said.
“He was just acting as the eyes and ears of the government, so why was he arrested?”
Mr Nora said the extortion claims were false and that he planned to fight the case if and when it reached the courts.
He added that Mr Savuth was still being detained at the provincial military police headquarters.
“The incident in question happened on July 7 or 8,” he said. “The local people gave him about $1, but it was not a bribe, it was to show their generosity for his work.”
The complaint from locals also accused his staff of setting up an illegal checkpoint, Mr Nora said.
But Mr Nora said that Mr. Savuth set up the checkpoint after receiving permission to do so from local authorities.