A district governor in Mondulkiri province filed a lawsuit yesterday against a National Military Police officer for allegedly pulling a gun on him during an operation to crack down on illegal logging.
Sin Vannvuth, the governor for Keo Seima district in Mondulkiri, said the operation, which began on Tuesday and consisted of 20 police, military police and forestry officials, was a joint effort to stop and check non-licensed vehicles for luxury wood.
At about 4am yesterday morning, after several eventless stoppages, the joint police forces intercepted a Lexus loaded with 16 pieces of timber and driven by National Military Police officer Sou Marith.
Vannvuth said Marith, who used to be in the military police at the provincial level, was so angered by the inconvenience that he stepped out of the car, pointed a gun at the district governor, got back in the car, and drove away.
“We are leading the forces and stopped his Lexus. It affects his interest, because we seized both the car and the rosewood, so he took out a gun, pointing it at me,” he said. “I never had any argument with Marith. He pointed the gun at me because we interfered with the business.”
Governor Vannvuth decided to take him to court, filing the suit at the provincial courthouse on the same day, citing Marith’s alleged disregard for the rule of law.
“I represent the people and local authorities who serve the government. Therefore, having contempt for me is like having contempt for the lower national government department, too,” he said. “I must sue him to bring him to justice.”
That might be easier said than done. Police said that after Marith drove off, they surrounded his house later in the morning and, helped by a search warrant, entered, finding 20 cubic metres of illegal luxury wood. Vannvuth suspects that Marith was planning on transporting the trove to a neighbouring country.
Marith could not be reached. The provincial military police commander Sak Sarang’s phone was turned off when a reporter tried to contact him yesterday.
Kheng Tito, the National Military Police spokesman, said he was aware of the case and confirmed that a “Sou Marith” is in the National Military Police. His officers are investigating the case.
Sou Vuthy, deputy provincial prosecutor, said they are investigating and will question Marith’s family members who live at the home where the timber was found.