POU KONG, CAMBODIA —
Rural Cambodians are voicing anger at companies and officials alike for massive forest logging operations.
Here in Pou Kong village in the remote northeastern province of Mondulkiri, the villagers say their livelihoods are under threat by the loss of the surrounding forests.
Like many villagers here, Vanna Khveurk says there is nothing locals can do to stop a operations by a Vietnamese company called Bin Peuk I.
"They said the government already allowed them to log, how can you protest against them? So, what can we as the people do? With the forest lost, we can only live on the streets and let the passing cars run over us as we have no more trust [on the government] now," Vanna said.
Treup Theurm, deputy head of the Indigenous Land Community, says police, forestry officials and local authorities have not just turned a blind eye to the problem.
"The authority are the ones who want to destroy the people," he said. "They are the most corrupt as they took bribes from the company. We no longer regard them as authority."
On a recent trip to the alleged logging area, a group of reporters, including VOA's, were blocked access by local policemen armed with AK-47s.
The next morning, another attempt by this reporter was unsuccessful, with armed policemen still standing in the way.
Local police leader Keo Savuth says he was just following orders from his chief.
Pcheub Pe, the Sre Preah commune chief, says he barred the journalists because they did not have permission from his superiors.
Confronted and challenged by indigenous activists, Vice Governor Yim Lux said the company has logging rights.
"The companies logging the forests are in line with the law because they are authorized by the government, so they are not wrong," he said. "But, when you the people go and log but are unauthorized, that's illegal."
He then denied any knowledge of orders to block NGO workers and journalists from reaching the alleged illegal logging area.
VOA could not reach the Vietnamese logging company for comment.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service