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Ex-governor of Ratanakkiri loses official status

KING Norodom Sihamoni has issued a Royal decree revoking the civil servant status of former Ratanakkiri provincial governor Kham Khoeun, who in 2006 was sentenced to 17 years in prison for his involvement in an illegal logging ring.

“This order will erase Kham Khoeun, who has been punished with imprisonment, as a senior administration official at the Ministry of Interior,” states the decree, which is dated February 12 and was published in the Royal Work Book released on February 26.

Kham Khoeun was one of seven officials prosecuted for their involvement in an illegal logging ring in Ratanakkiri province’s Andong Meas district. The scheme involved felling trees in Virachey National Park and transporting the lumber across the border to Vietnam.

Pen Bonnar, the provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said Monday that although all seven officials were convicted and ordered to serve prison terms, only one is currently behind bars.

That official – former Ratanakkiri police chief Yoeung Baloung – was given a 13-year prison term for environmental destruction and “lying and concealing the truth”.

“As I know so far, Yoeung Baloung was moved from Prey Sar prison to the provincial prison,” Pen Bonnar said Monday.

He condemned the authorities for failing to apprehend the six other officials.

“We want the government to implement the law equally,” he said.

Senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Monday that the decree marked the fact that the appeals process in the case against Kham Khoeun had been exhausted.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Monday that police were still looking for Kham Khoeun, who officials have previously said was living in Laos.

“We are still working to implement the court’s verdict, but we have not yet found him,” Khieu Sopheak said. “We don’t know where he is, but we will find him.”

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