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More called to testify in logging case

NINE members of a conservation NGO based in Kampong Speu province have been summoned to the provincial court on suspicion of illegal logging, and one of them was questioned yesterday, the group’s director said.

Chea Hean, director of the National Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, said last week that he had been summoned in response to a complaint from Chhun Chhea Heng, the head of the Oral Mountain Animal Refuge. He said yesterday that additional summonses had been issued for eight of his workers in response to the same complaint.

The complaint from Chhun Chea Heng, Chea Hean said, accuses the NGO members of illegal logging and extortion.

Chhun Chea Heng is one of 241 officials accused by Chea Hean of turning a blind eye to illegal logging in Kampong Speu. All 241 officials were named in a complaint submitted by Chea Hean to the government’s newly established Anticorruption Unit on August 30.

Neither Chhun Chea Heng nor Om Yienteng, the head of the ACU, could be reached for comment yesterday. Iv Borin, the Kampong Speu provincial court judge identified by Chea Hean as handling the questioning of all nine members of his organisation, declined to comment on the case.

Chea Hean said yesterday that he was not afraid to respond to his summons – which calls for him to appear at the court on Wednesday – but that his staffers were rattled by the prospect of being detained following their appearances at the court.

“I am not afraid, but my staff is scared,” he said. “I have already made a promise before the court. If I have logged illegally in Oral district then I would like to hand myself over to the court and be sentenced to the death penalty.”

Loas Veth, the NGO staffer who appeared for questioning at the court yesterday, said he had been accused of illegal logging, wearing a fake uniform and extortion. He was released after the session was completed.

“I have some concerns, but I believe I am not guilty of anything so the court will give me justice,” he said.

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