Two policemen with the Ministry of Interior’s anti-economic crimes division were sent to a disciplinary board yesterday to answer more questions over their alleged involvement in releasing an illegal rosewood smuggler in exchange for $2,500, though the case is proving more complex after an initial investigation.
Captain Ek Souen and second lieutenant Kim Piseth were initially accused of stopping a car packed with 500 kilograms of rosewood traveling from Siem Reap to Oddar Meanchey on May 5. After the suspect was arrested, authorities say, he was released in return for the fee.
But police colonel Yin Broseth, chief of the Department of Anti-Economic Crimes at the Ministry of Interior, said Souen’s alibi that he wasn’t at the scene checks out, and that Piseth, who disputes the allegation, is the one responsible.
Piseth, however, claims an official within the forestry administration released the suspect, and he was offered $400 to look the other way.
Broseth said the disciplinary board will question both of them to find out the truth.
“Whoever did this must be responsible, because rosewood is a masked killer. People are always shot dead by crossing the border to log in neighbouring countries, and we do not want to see people being shot dead,” he said. “The release of a suspect and the rosewood car are against the directive of the head of the Royal Government of Cambodia, and transform the judicial police into criminals, and they can be dismissed from positions.”
Tea Kimsoth, director of the Siem Reap Forestry Administration, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
On February 22, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed an order laying out nine points for preventing and cracking down on illegal logging, including measures on transportation, collection, storage and export. The first point refers to illegal border crossing, saying that the commander of that area must be held responsible when timber slips through authorities’ hands.
Chhim Vuth, project coordinator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said that a culture of negotiation exists between loggers and police, and decrees won’t put a quick end to those arrangements.