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Luxury wood that was found in Stung Treng province during an investigation into arrested timber trader Heng Samnieng last week. Forestry Administration
Luxury wood that was found in Stung Treng province during an investigation into arrested timber trader Heng Samnieng last week. Forestry Administration

Timber trader charged in Phnom Penh

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged accused timber trader Heng Samnieng yesterday in connection with multiple luxury timber-trafficking offences committed over the past three months.

Sous Vechearandy, deputy administrator at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said Samnieng was charged with illegally gathering luxury timber and obstructing public authorities with aggravating circumstances.

Samnieng, also known by the alias Grandma Proeung, was arrested on Thursday by Stung Treng provincial authorities before being transferred to Phnom Penh the following day.

Police raided Samnieng’s warehouse in August, confiscating more than 1,000 logs of luxury timber, though Samnieng managed to escape. This past Thursday, she was apprehended while trying to steal back her confiscated timber with the help of seven employees.

“The court issued an order to detain her for illegally gathering forest products and attempting to obstruct public officials by stealing,” Vechearandy said.

Sun Yoeurth, spokesman for the Stung Treng Provincial Court, confirmed that the case had been sent to Phnom Penh on Friday per a request from the Ministry of Justice, although she did not know why the case was transferred.

Chin Malin, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said he also did not know why Samnieng was transferred, but maintained it was within the bounds of normal procedure.

“In principle, there is no problem with transferring the case from one court to another, even though the crime occurred in Stung Treng.”

He also speculated that the transfer could be a result of a “conflict of interest with court officers”.

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