Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Deputy prosecutor suspended for ‘clearing’ mangrove forest



Deputy prosecutor suspended for ‘clearing’ mangrove forest

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Kampong Thom provincial deputy prosecutor Chea Sovanthet has been suspended after he was alleged to have been involved in the clearing of 10ha of mangrove forest with 17 tractors. Photo supplied

Deputy prosecutor suspended for ‘clearing’ mangrove forest

Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana on Monday temporarily suspended Kampong Thom provincial deputy prosecutor Chea Sovanthet after he was alleged to have been involved in the clearing 10ha of mangrove forest with 17 tractors.

Vong Vathana’s missive to the provincial prosecutor on Monday said the Ministry of Justice had received a letter dated April 18 and decided to send the case to court.

It said Sovanthet was charged with “taking the initiative to cut and clear flooded mangrove forest” in Kampong Svay district’s Kampong Kor and Phat Sanday communes from April 13-17.

The charges were based on alleged offences in contravention of Article 28 of the Criminal Code and Article 98 of the Law on Fisheries.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin told The Post that according to standard legal procedure, if an official is charged by the court, he or she will be temporarily suspended pending its ruling.

After the court has carried out its investigations, should Sovanthet be found guilty, the court has the power to strike his name from the administrative framework and take legal action to administer appropriate punishment according to the law, he said.

“For the moment, we must suspend him for the sake of the investigation process because it in the hands of the court. Should the court find Sovanthet not guilty, he may be allowed to return to his position."

“There are several other people involved in the case, but I cannot identify anyone while the investigation is ongoing. As soon as court procedures are complete, any offenders will be identified,” Malin said.

Sovanthet referred questions to his senior leadership on Tuesday, while provincial prosecutor Ith Sothea declined to comment.

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries provincial director Thiv Vanthy on Tuesday said he had received news of the matter.

“We are now working actively to further investigate the case and prepare detailed reports to present to senior leadership because the involved parties are well connected. I cannot elaborate further,” he said.

Phat Sanday commune chief Heng Mono declined to comment on Monday, referring questions to Kampong Kor commune chief Srey Nal.

Nal told The Post that from April 13-17, the authorities detained nine people and impounded 17 tractors as they were systematically clearing some 10ha of land.

But he said he was not yet sure of the total number of the people being held.

“They have behaved in an anarchic manner and have never told us who, whether people from lower society or the local authorities, is behind them."

“They have backing in high places, so they were never worried about us. The senior leadership came to carry out the arrests and, after questioning, it became apparent that the case involved the deputy prosecutor [Sovanthet]."

“Residents have reported to me several times, but I didn’t know what I could do. When I went, they told me they were on good terms with senior leadership,” Nal said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants