Mondulkiri provincial Forestry Administration arrested eight 7NG Group employees and sent them to the provincial court on Monday for encroaching on a state-owned pine forest in Pouraing village, Sen Monorom commune, O’Raing district.
Mondulkiri provincial Forestry Administration director Um Van Sopheak told The Post on Monday that supervisor Chuong Sophearun and seven of his team members (workers) were arrested on Saturday afternoon for encroaching into the pine forest.
Besides the arrests, the authorities had also confiscated a truck, four motorbikes, a steel bar and two scythes.
After questioning the suspects one by one on Monday, the prosecutor decided to release the seven workers without charging them. However, Sophearun was placed under arrest for questioning, said Mondulkiri Provincial Court deputy prosecutor Mam Vanda.
“We decided to allow the seven workers to go home after they confessed about installing markers on the [state] land as instructed by their supervisor,” said Vanda.
During the questioning, Sophearun, who allegedly led the installation work, claimed that the land is owned by 7NG Group president Oknha Srey Chanthou, Vanda said.
Sophearun claimed Chanthou bought the land from some villagers in the area. He showed some documents to officers who conducted the interrogation.
The documents, which are copies, include a land ownership transfer letter dated April 2, 2018, which was verified by former O’Raing district governor Norng Tunnary and Mondulkiri provincial tax branch director Heng Sipa.
Other documents included a letter certified by Sen Monorom commune chief Thvan Trel indicating the land boundaries, and a map of the land which was recognised by the village, commune and O’Raing district authorities.
“We do not know the authenticity of the documents as he [Sophearun] only showed us the copies, not original documents, so we need more time to cross-check his statement with the relevant authorities,” said Vanda.
Tunnary told The Post on Monday that in the past Chanthou had bought farmland from some villagers in Pouraing village. Most of the land plots have pine trees.
Tunnary said: “However, I don’t know what exactly happened on Saturday afternoon. I am not certain if the workers installed markers on the company’s land or state land.
“In this case, I leave it to the technical authorities and 7NG Group to verify and resolve the matter because I have retired.”
7NG Group’s lawyer Doung Loeung told The Post he is not aware of the arrests and neither does he know of a supervisor named Sophearun in Mondulkiri province.