Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Details scant for warrants issued in logging crackdown

Details scant for warrants issued in logging crackdown

Two motorbikes stacked with luxury wood stand on the side of National Road 7 in Stung Treng on Friday after they were stopped by authorities. Adhoc
Two motorbikes stacked with luxury wood stand on the side of National Road 7 in Stung Treng on Friday after they were stopped by authorities. Adhoc

Details scant for warrants issued in logging crackdown

The recently formed anti-illegal logging committee has issued 10 warrants against alleged illegal timber traders since it began its crackdown in January, officials have confirmed, although the details of those accused and the charges they face remain under wraps.

The committee’s spokesperson Eng Hy said yesterday that since the group began scouring Cambodia’s eastern provinces in January, the Tbong Khmum and Mondulkiri provincial courts have issued 10 warrants for the arrest of people connected to illegal logging, but he declined to go into detail on the cases.

“The expert committee has prepared some lawsuits in some provinces in which the crackdown operation has been launched, and some of those have reached the prosecutor already,” he said, adding that some suspects were company managers, but declining to go into further details.

Hy said that the committee was still assessing the legal status of tens of thousands of cubic metres of seized wood and there would be more warrants to follow. Although he added that authorities had lacked the equipment to control forest fires that they say had made their way onto several economic land concessions and destroyed potential evidence.

Heang Sopheak, a prosecutor at the Tbong Khmum Provincial Court, confirmed that warrants had been issued, but declined to provide any details, instead referring questions back to the illegal logging committee.

Rights groups and community forest representatives have welcomed the efforts of anti-illegal logging committee since it was established at the behest of Prime Minister Hun Sen on January 14, but have repeatedly called for transparency in its activities.

Em Sopheak, a program officer for the Community Legal Education Center, reiterated that stance yesterday, saying that it was positive to hear that warrants had been issued by the committee, but questioning the timeliness of the charges and the lack of detail in their investigations.

“It is just one step that the committee has filed a complaint to the court, but we are afraid that those suspects will be called to testify, but there will be no real punishment for them,” he said.

Sok Ratha, Mondulkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that authorities had not released all the information they could have relating to the raids.

“Maybe the committee needs [more time] to investigate more people the behind the timber traders,” he said, when asked about the limited release of information.

In a separate case in Stung Treng last week, villagers set alight 30 planks of wood they were carrying on the back of their motorbikes after being stopped by forestry officials.

According to Chhuok Komal, Stung Treng town police chief, forestry officials stopped two villagers on motorbikes carrying the wood and dumped the load on the side of the road.

When the authorities left to get a vehicle to transport the haul, the villagers doused the planks in gasoline and set it on fire, before fleeing the scene, he said.

“The officers arrested them to educate them, so that they stop the illegal transport [of wood], but they burned it themselves,” Komal said.

Meanwhile, forestry officials have been accused of failing to intercept two trucks loaded with over 10 cubic metres of protected timber from Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary after being alerted to their presence by a forestry NGO in Kampong Speu on Saturday night.

Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization, said his NGO had been tracking the wood for some time, and when the tucks left on Saturday he alerted both the provincial and national environmental authorities, who said that they would intervene.

However, Hean said he followed the trucks to Takeo province on their way to Vietnam through multiple checkpoints and authorities failed to act.

Neither provincial nor national environmental authorities could be reached for comment yesterday, while Oral Wildlife Sanctuary deputy director Soeng Bunhen hung up on a reporter.

MOST VIEWED

  • Analyst: Rainsy blocked from boarding flight 'an excuse'

    THAI Airways not allowing Sam Rainsy on its route from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday is being used as an excuse to keep his standing among fellow coup plotters and his uninformed supporters as flights to non-Asean countries are available, an analyst said on Friday.

  • Rainsy lands in Malaysia

    Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday afternoon after boarding a flight from Paris, where he has been living for more than four years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Saturday that Cambodia respected

  • Touch: Rainsy will never return

    Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has claimed it has achieved 70 per cent of its struggle to find a solution to the current political situation in the Kingdom. Just before boarding a plane at Charles de Gaulle

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand

  • MEPs' call for Rainsy's safety not European Parliament position

    The European Parliament said on Friday that a statement by 56 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) calling for guarantees of Sam Rainsy’s freedom and safety should he return to Cambodia did not represent its position. Delphine Colard, the European Parliament’s press officer told

  • Sar Kheng: Rainsy return not blocked

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng clarified that Cambodia had never blocked Sam Rainsy from returning to the Kingdom. However, he said Cambodia reserved the right to take legal action as allowed by law against activities aimed at destroying the Kingdom. “No one blocked the return