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Caper to free official works

Military police in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district on Monday were duped into letting a detained immigration official walk free just hours after he was arrested for alleged involvement in the cross-border illegal timber trade, police said yesterday.

District military police chief Sok Min said yesterday that a group of men claiming to be Ministry of Interior officials came to the military police post where Kong Sovan Chenda was detained – following a car chase in which he allegedly drove a Lexus loaded with illegal timber – and asked to take the suspect back to their office to fill out some paperwork related to his arrest.

However, the men, including Sovan Chenda, never returned.

“We allowed him to go with his employer to his office and come back to the military police office, but they all escaped,” Min said.

“Now we are looking for [him] to arrest him.”

Min sought to dispel any notions that bribery was involved, saying it was instead mere gullibility.

“[It was] not related to payment,” he said.

“We thought that when his colleagues took him to their office for the paperwork, they would come back.”

Phan Phoeun, deputy chief of the provincial Forestry Administration, said that his office regretted the suspect’s escape and would “keep investigating more as to why he was able to escape even though he was arrested by the military police”.

The provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, Chhay Thy, lambasted military police yesterday for letting a detained suspect out of custody, describing it as an obvious example of authorities caving to wealthy, connected suspects.

“It is not easy to escape when the military police have arrested him already,” he said. “We don’t doubt his having paid [them] to allow him to get away.”

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