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Police chief scarce after accusations

A commune police chief in Ratanakkiri province appears to have gone into hiding, a district police official said yesterday, after villagers accused him of ordering members of an ethnic minority group to log timber illegally.

More than 100 Kreung families in O’Chum district extracted more than eight cubic metres of second-grade luxury timber from a forest area on Tuesday, La’ak commune chief Yam Pan said.

Villagers claim Chak Ung commune police chief Ying Tramong asked them to log that timber in a community forest last month so he could create a coffin for his father-in-law, Pan added.

“But he did not use it to make a coffin,” he said. “He sold more than one cubic metre of it to a furniture shop.”

Tramong could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Chan Thorn, district deputy police chief, said he himself had been trying to contact the accused police chief for days but had not reached him and did not know where he was.

“I know many journalists have been trying to contact him, so he’s turned off his phone,” he said. “Even I don’t know where he is.”

O’Chum District Governor Sak Son declined to comment, saying he was unaware of the issue.

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the villagers had not filed a complaint with him, but he would still be investigating due to the rampant logging in the province.

“The forest law says that any officers found guilty of illegal logging will be imprisoned for between one and five years and fined between 10 million and 100 million riel [about $2,500 to $25,000],” he said. “If the law is well enforced, most the officers in the area would be brought to justice because they are involved.”

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