Preah Sihanouk provincial officials yesterday clashed with a group of villagers armed with sticks and machetes as the officials were trying to dismantle illegally built homes in the Ream National Park.
According to a provincial police report, the clash took place inside the protected area in Prey Nop district’s Ream commune when joint forces, including environment officials and military police officers, were removing illegally built homes in the protected area.
Mour Chhay, chief of rangers at Ream National Park, said yesterday joint forces cracked down on residents encroaching on the protected area.
“We cracked down on an anarchic group encroaching upon the protected area and used violence against our joint forces,” Mr Chhay said.
“They fought us by using petrol bombs, machetes, axes, sticks and slingshots. As a result, three of the officials were injured,” he said, adding those injured included a police officer, military police officer and a village security guard.
The report said seven people were arrested as they clashed with police. It resulted in three injured officials.
Mr Chhay said the suspects were sent to Prey Nop district police station for questioning yesterday.
Kheang Phearom, spokesman for Provincial Hall, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Established in 1993, Ream National Park covers 21,000 hectares, including a 6,000-hectare marine habitat.
According to Articles 62 and 56 of the Nature Protection Law, those found guilty of occupying and clearing protected forests will be jailed for up to 10 years and be fined up to about $37,000.
Earlier this month, Provincial Hall said forest rangers, police officers and district authorities were dismantling homes illegally built in the park when they were attacked by about 100 residents armed with petrol bombs, sticks and sharp objects.
It said at that time two district officials and three police officers were injured during the attack.