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Courts report no backlog of logging cases

PROVINCIAL court officials yesterday denied having a backlog of illegal logging cases, following a claim made by Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun that around 70 percent of reported forestry, agriculture and fisheries crimes have not resulted in trials.

Preah Vihear provincial prosecutor Keo Sim said yesterday that his court had tried 41 separate cases of illegal logging and land-grabbing in the first six months of the year, and had confiscated more than 400 cubic metres of luxury wood.

“My provincial court has no more cases of forestry crime still locked in the court system that have not been to trial,” he said.

Mondulkiri court prosecutor Im Sophan declined to disclose the number of illegal-logging cases the court has tried, but said all confiscated materials had been handed to provincial forestry authorities.

“We also jailed some perpetrators in relation to cases of illegal logging and land-clearing,” he said.

Leav Sreng, prosecutor at Ratanakkiri provincial court, also declined to give concrete figures, but said investigations into such crimes “take time”.
He said, though, that “no-one is so insolent as to backlog the cases of forestry crimes”.

In a speech delivered to Forestry Administration officials on Friday, Chan Sarun said the backlong he described was due to “a lack of cooperation” among court prosecutors, and that staff from relevant administrations “do not continue observing these cases”.

Chan Sarun also presented a list of recommendations designed to help officials “take urgent and strict action to crack down on illegal logging”.

“We must gather the luxury wood that we have cracked down on and confiscated, and auction it to the public,” he said. “The income from the sales should be put into the state budget.”

In January, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned government officials that he would no longer tolerate their involvement in such crimes. Three months later, he removed Ty Sokun from his post as director of the Forestry Administration, citing a failure to curb illegal logging.

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