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

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • PM warns of ‘new Cold War’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the possibility of a so-called new Cold War has become a significant concern and that all countries have to reject outright, any attempt to allow history to tragically repeat itself. He made the remarks in a speech during 75th Session

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped