Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday tasked National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha with leading a committee to crack down on illegal timber smuggling into Vietnam, singling out two wealthy businessmen as culprits, according to a government official.
Granting Sokha two helicopters to combat the illegal trade, the premier put provincial, district, military and forestry officials on notice over the issue and specifically called out “timber traders” Soeng Sam Ol and Lim Bunna, government spokesman Phay Siphan said.
Siphan, who was referencing comments made by the premier at a cabinet meeting yesterday morning, said the premier was reacting to newspaper reports identifying the men as heading up timber smuggling rings in Tbong Khmum’s Memot district.
“The message is get tough on that issue – he wants to see a crackdown take place right away. [The committee] is allowed to use two military helicopters to monitor and crack down on illegal smuggling in that area,” Siphan said.
“Especially the two tycoons, they smuggled all the wood to Vietnam without permission and no one could say anything. Sokha has full power to use firearms from the chopper to stop the smuggling activities.”
Sam Ol and Lim Bunna, also known as Khnar and Oknha Lim Sam Ol, could not be reached yesterday. Tbong Khmum’s Provincial Governor Prach Chan said his men were combating the timber trade but the premier’s order was a reminder to increase their efforts.
Memot District Governor Cheng Bunara said a meeting would be organised on the issue.