Mondulkiri provincial Military Police are hunting four more people on court orders after tycoon Soeng Sam Ol and three alleged accomplices were placed in pre-trial detention on illegal logging charges.
Eng Hy, the spokesperson for the National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes, told The Post on Monday that the four went into hiding after Military Police arrested Sam Ol, who holds the honorific oknha, and impounded more than 40 vehicles reportedly used to haul the timber.
“The four suspects were involved in forestry crimes in Mondulkiri province, but I cannot tell you about their identities yet,” he said, referring reporters to the provincial court.
Mondulkiri Provincial Court deputy prosecutor Morm Vanda confirmed on Monday that he had summoned the four to appear for questioning over large-scale logging.
“I’ve ordered them to appear at the Mondulkiri provincial Military Police headquarter on a specific date. If they don’t show up as per court order, we will issue arrest warrants for a special task force to bring them in for questioning,” he said.
The summonses, which were issued by Vanda on July 11 and obtained by The Post on Monday, identified two of the four suspects as 50-year-old Neng Mao, from Snuol commune in Kratie province’s Snuol district, and 27-year-old Siang Sokhon, from Koh Samrong commune in Kampong Cham province’s Kampong Siem district.
“We order Neng Mao, a timber collector for the Master K Sun company, to appear at Mondulkiri provincial Military Police headquarters before August 9 for questioning over the collection of timber products without permits,” said one of the summons.
The other summons ordered Sokhon, a supervisor for Master K Sun, to appear at Mondulkiri Provincial Military Police headquarter on the same date for questioning over the same offence.
On July 12, Okhna Sam Ol, two supervisors and one driver were placed in pre-trial detention, while 45 trucks allegedly used for hauling luxury timber were confiscated by the National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes.
The vehicles have since been handed over to provincial authorities after nearly 10 others were destroyed.
On July 13, five forestry officials were also taken in for questioning but were released the same day.
In a separate case of illegal logging in Mondulkiri, two Vietnamese and three Cambodian suspects were detained on Friday while they were clearing forest in Keo Seima district.
Vanda said the five have been placed in pre-trial detention on charges of “collecting forestry products” without permits.
Eang Mengly, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, told The Post on Monday that while he applauded tough actions against large-scale forestry crimes, he urged authorities to do the same to corrupt officials who, he claimed, had colluded with the perpetrators.
“The authorities should not just detain a few people. This is a large-scale crime so they should also arrest corrupt officials who are behind the offenders, whether they are high-ranking or low-ranking officials. We must enforce the law equally,” he said.
Forest protection activist Kroeung Tola said he had seen fewer cases of logging after the high-profile crackdown involving Oknha Sam Ol. He called on authorities to pursue their clampdown and take action against traders and officials who collude with them.
“I think law enforcement is not thorough yet. The committee should also launch an investigation to find more people, including corrupt officials who were behind the loggers. They must avoid double standards in implementing the law,” he said.