A SOLDIER caught transporting illegal timber in Ratanakkiri province evaded punishment on Thursday after allegedly threatening to kill the local official who confronted him, the official said Sunday.
Em Sovann, assistant administrator of Nhang commune in An’doung Meas district, said that he was monitoring a stretch of road in the area known for illegal logging Thursday when he flagged down a passing truck for inspection.
“When I asked the driver ... about the status of the lumber he was carrying, the soldier told me that I had no right to check his truck, and that I ought to be beaten to death,” he said.
Em Sovann said he lacked the authority to stop the truck. But after the incident, he reported the threat to the district governor and requested additional military police for the district.
An’doung Meas district Governor Nor Darith said he would take measures to give local officials like Em Sovann greater power in the fight against illegal logging.
Higher-level authorities, “by contrast, may be reluctant to crack down on illegal logging because they know and sometimes work alongside the powerful individuals who control the trade”, he said.
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said illegal logging has become widespread.
“The authorities profit from the loggers, which is why the practice is always on the rise,” he said. “At this rate, Ratanakkiri province will become a desert one day.”