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Journos claim officials are involved in logging

A group of local journalists in Preah Vihear province allege, in a complaint filed with a rights group, that authorities are involved in the sale of illegally logged timber.

Seven journalists, who asked that their names and respective outlets not be identified for fear of retribution from local authorities, filed a complaint with rights group Adhoc last week after they discovered an estimated 60 cubic metres of luxury-grade wood at the Sdao commune police station and near the Sdao secondary school in Preah Vihear’s Sangkum Thmei district, said Lor Chann, a provincial coordinator for Adhoc.

“The journalists contacted several authorities and police officers to intervene, but no one cares about it,” Chann said. “All levels of authority officers are believed to be involved in this, especially the Sdao commune police.”

Before seeking Adhoc’s help, the complaint says, the group reported the issue, to no avail, to provincial Forestry Administration director Ith Phomara, provincial prosecutor Ly Lon, provincial governor Om Mara and Ministry of Agriculture director of forestry administration Cheeng Kimsun.

Villagers have told Chann that they sell the timber for $500 per cubic metre, he said.

The complaint, which Adhoc received on Saturday, says a man named Sreng Meng, who the seven journalists allege is a staffer for logging magnate Try Pheap, buys illegally logged wood from villagers.

“The community forest has been decimated by villagers who sell the timber to Meng,” said one of the journalists who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Sdao commune police chief Nem Siek and prosecutor Lon yesterday told the Post the timber at the police station belongs to Pheap’s company and was logged legally.

Sangkum Thmei district governor Ros Heng yesterday said he was unaware of any company buying luxury wood from villagers.

“I will ask my officers to examine this case” Heng told the Post yesterday. “I do not know about any selling and buying timber in my district.”

Meng, Mara and Phomara could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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