Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Charges dropped against ‘forest clearance’ officials

Charges dropped against ‘forest clearance’ officials

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The charges against two environment officials for clearing forest land in a protected sanctuary have been dropped. Photo supplied

Charges dropped against ‘forest clearance’ officials

A former investigating judge at Kampong Speu provincial court has dropped charges against two senior environment officials who had been sued for “malicious denunciation, forest clearing and land grabbing for private ownership”. The case dates back to 2010.

Toung Putheara dropped the charges against Khorn Sokhun, director of the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary, and Chhun Chhie Heng, office head at the Kampong Speu provincial environment department, on October 22, just days before he was transferred to the Kampong Cham provincial court in a nationwide reshuffle.

Chea Hean, director of the NGO Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, filed the lawsuit against the two officials in 2013 after serving three years in prison.

Hean said the legal tussle started in 2010 when he threatened legal action against the duo while trying to stop them from clearing around 100ha of forest land in the protected sanctuary.

Hean alleged that instead of heeding his warning, the two environment officials “faked” a document stating he illegally owned the 100ha lot and sent him to court.

“They forged documents accusing me of [illegally] owning 100ha. The land actually belonged to Chhun Chhie Heng, Khorn Sokhun, some other rangers and a couple of villagers."

“I will appeal the decision. If the Appeal Court does not take action, I will go to the Supreme Court and if there is still no action, I will go to the Supreme Council of Magistracy,” Hean said.

He said if he exhausted all legal means and still loses, he will resign from the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation.

Hean alleged that the two officials had illegally cleared around 100ha of the forest land, 20ha of which was used to plant mango trees, in the sanctuary in Oral district’s Tasal commune.

He pressed the charges against the two under Articles 311 and 312 of the Criminal Code and Articles 56 and 62 of the Law on Protected Natural Sites, demanding $10,000 in compensation.

The former Kampong Speu investigating judge declined to comment on the case. “I can’t give you a reason for the decision to drop the charges because it’s a secret of the investigating judge,” he claimed.

Sokhun could not be reached for comment on Monday, while his predecessor Chhie Heng said he was in a meeting and declined to comment.

Chea Hean’s lawyer Sam Chamroeun said he will discuss the appeal with his client.

MOST VIEWED

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.