Prey Lang Network Demands Justice After Axe Attack

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Members of the Prey Lang Community Network next to confiscated logging equipment and motorcycles during a patrol this week. Supplied

Members of the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) insisted yesterday that the government carry out an investigation into the assault on one of their activists in Kratie province on Monday.
Phon Sopheak was asleep in a hammock near Boeung Cha village in the midst of a forest patrol – during which she and her colleagues were attempting to halt illegal loggers – when she was attacked by an unknown assailant with an axe. Ms. Sopheak was hospitalized with serious injuries. She remains there today.
Yesterday, the PLCN sent a letter to the government asking them to mount an investigation into the incident and arrest her attacker.
“She was able to escape death, but she is seriously injured on her left leg. She is one of many people who participate in defending the environment and natural resources while two other environmental activists in Honduras were killed in March this year,” the letter said, referring to renowned environmental activists Berta Caceres and Nelson Garcia, who were assassinated in the South American country earlier this month.
The letter said the activists defending Prey Lang urge the government to stop all logging operations in Prey Lang, both legal and illegal, and also urge the government to cooperate with their organization to ramp up its efforts investigating deforestation crimes in the protected forest.
The PLCN, established in 1999, was conducting a five-day campaign when Ms. Sopheak was attacked. Their team of activists confiscated 35 chainsaws and discovered many stacks of timber linked to Prey Lang’s ongoing destruction.
“Since the beginning of this year, we have confiscated 85 chainsaws and hundreds of cubic meters of illegal timber,” the letter added.
Phay Bunlieng, a PLCN member based in Kratie, said the network was preparing the necessary documents to file a complaint to the administrative police, district police and to provincial police in order to bring the perpetrator of Monday’s axe attack to justice.
“It was a serious threat against our activist’s life, and it was also a threat to all of us,” Mr. Bunlieng said.
Srey Vanna, the police chief in Sambo district where the crime took place, wanted to assure PLCN members that the authorities were looking closely at the case.
“Our authorities are doing more investigating in order to bring the perpetrator to justice. We are not ignoring this case,” he said.
Ouch Leng, president of the Human Rights Task Force, said that pursuing justice for environmental activists was a hopeless cause. In the past, cases like Ms. Sopheak’s were simply closed before responsibility was determined.
“Look at Chhut Wuthy’s case – there was no justice for him. The court said only that the case was closed because the accused was also dead. We all know who the perpetrators were. They were tycoons, high-ranking government officials and gendarmerie,” Mr. Leng claimed.
According to an analysis by The Guardian, Mr. Wuthy was gunned down by military police officers while accompanied by two journalists during an investigation into illegal logging operations.

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