Three people have been shot and killed by soldiers in northeastern Cambodia, according to officials as reported by The Associated Press. Those killed were a conservation worker, a military policy officer and a forest protection ranger, reportedly because they had seized equipment from illegal loggers.
Keo Sopheak, a senior environmental official in Cambodia’s Mondulkiri province, said the attack happened on the afternoon of Tuesday 31 january 2018, as the conservation team was patrolling in Keo Siema Wildlife Sanctuary. Keo Sopheak said of the men killed was a Cambodian employee of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The U.S.-based NGO is running a project at Keo Seima aimed at conserving its forests and wildlife through capacity-building initiatives with local communities.
According to a statement provided by WCS, those killed were Ministry of Environment ranger Teurn Soknai, military police officer Sek Wathana, and WCS SMART officer Thul Khna.
“Soknai was from the local Bunong Indigenous Community, he lived all of his life in Pu Cham village, O’riang District in Mondulkiri Province. He grew up surrounded by nature and wildlife and from a young age was aware of the importance of forests and excited by wildlife and conservation.
After gaining a bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management from National University of Management, Cambodia, he worked for WCS as an assistant to the ecotourism project in KSWS for four years. As part of that role he developed the Jahoo Gibbon Camp near Andong Kralong village, at which tourists stay and bring extra income to this indigenous community.
Jahoo is the Bunong word for female gibbon, a species that Soknai was passionate and knowledgeable about, frequently enthralling visitors with Bunong stories about the animal. He joined the Ministry of Environment (MoE) to become a ranger in mid-2017 because he saw what was happening to the forest that he loved and wanted to protect it. Soknai was well-regarded in his village, and respected by colleagues and visitors because his passion for nature was clear for all to see. He is survived by a wife and two daughters of one and four years.