A Ratanakkiri provincial police officer was yesterday questioned over his alleged ownership of an illegal gold mine in Lumphat district, which was forced to close on Wednesday by the authorities.
Mam Kemchheng, Ratanakkiri’s deputy director of transportation police, denied involvement in the mine yesterday.
However, according to other officers, his wife, Pech Sophat, turned up at the site yesterday morning and said the mine did belong to Kemchheng and complained that authorities were targeting him unfairly.
Say Khly, a local police chief, said Sophat had loudly berated the officers at the site yesterday.
“She shouted that if the authorities shut down [Kemchheng’s] mine, they should shut others down as well,” Khly said. “I told her that it was an obvious case that had been brought to our attention.”
The crackdown was launched after an Australian mining concessionaire in the area, Angkor Gold, alerted the authorities to the illegal gold mine, which was located in an area where they have the rights to prospect for the precious metal.
Kemchheng told police his family did not run the mine.
He also denied that the equipment seized Wednesday was used for mining.
“The [equipment] was used for watering crops, and the [rock] grinder is too old to use,” he claimed.
Angkor Gold spokesman Ma Som Art said that they had warned illegal miners to cease operations twice before filing a complaint.