Two police chiefs in Ratanakkiri province were charged and imprisoned on Saturday for allegedly allowing illegal logging by Vietnamese nationals in the area.
Pak Nhai commune police chief Poy Chroch, 32, and border police chief Rochorm Em, 47, of Border Protection Platoon 4, were apprehended on Friday and summonsed to court for questioning following suspicions that they permitted five Vietnamese men to illegally cross the border and clear the forest in O’Yadav’s Pak Nhai commune, according to Chhay Thy, a provincial representative from rights group Adhoc.
“The two officers were charged for allowing people to log and sent to pretrial detention on Saturday for giving permission to have the forest cleared,” said Ratanakkiri Provincial Court president Sous La.
The two police chiefs will stay in pretrial detention prior to their court case around three months from today.
Their arrests came after five Vietnamese nationals were charged in November for using automatic chainsaws to log timber without permission in the area, Thy said. The Vietnamese men have been kept in pretrial detention since then.
Due to Chroch and Em’s alleged roles as public officials, they were charged under Article 100 of the 2002 Forest Law.
Under the article, local authorities and officers who commit illegal activities that directly or indirectly interfere with enforcing the law or give permission to break the set regulations governing Cambodia’s forests shall be sentenced to one to five years in prison or fined between 10 million to 100 million riels (about $2,500 to $25,000).
In interviews in 2013, Chroch denied knowledge of illegal logging by Vietnamese nationals in Ratanakkiri.
“No Vietnamese have come to log, but a small number of Cambodians have gone to remove tree roots and put them into sacks and sell them in Vietnam,” Chroch said.
Adhoc is planning to put forward a case against another border police official who also allegedly allowed Vietnamese nationals to log timber in the Kingdom illegally, Thy said.