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

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Quarantine site in north Phnom Penh inaugurated

    A four-building quarantine centre in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district was formally inaugurated on January 6. The centre can house up to 500 people, according to Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng. At the inauguration ceremony, Sreng said the municipal hall had cooperated with the Ministry

  • ‘Beware of WhatsApp fraudsters’

    The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications warned members of the public who use WhatsApp to vigilantly guard against a new trick employed by hackers that involves the use of six-digit codes sent to potential victims via the popular messaging app. The ministry said hackers could