Kampong Speu provincial authorities on Friday arrested five individuals suspected of illegally mining marble at Kbal Damrey village in Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune.
Provincial governor Vei Samnang said on Monday that the suspects included three Cambodians and two Vietnamese nationals.
“We are drafting a report regarding the incident involving five people who drilled a natural mine without a permit. The Vietnamese nationals may face a separate case under Cambodian laws after we investigate whether they entered [the Kingdom] lawfully,” he said.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post that the five suspects had been held and educated on a previous occasion under suspicion of committing the same crime, but defied orders and continued their illegal mining activities regardless.
“The operation took place on private property and not state-owned land. Provincial Environment Department officials had previously caught and educated the suspects, but they returned [to the site] and continued their illegal activity.
“They may be charged for violation of national immigration laws,” said Pheaktra, who is also ministry secretary of state.
Yos Monirath, the director-general of the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s General Department of Mineral Resources, said authorities in Oral district were interrogating the suspects to get their ringleader’s name.
“The five were questioned but are yet to reveal who they work for and no one has appeared to defend them,” he said, adding that his office worked in tandem with local authorities to make the arrests.
Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation director Chea Hean said the authorities had uncovered six illegal locations measuring 50-60m in depth that was used to extract the marble near Oral Wildlife Sanctuary.
The suspects are believed to have spent more than 10 days quarrying the site before authorities nabbed them, according to Hean.
“When I received complaints from villagers, I went there directly to probe them on the legality of the operations and whether or not they had a licence.
“A Vietnamese national claimed that they had been issued Order 01 [a federal directive that grants mining operations]. He did not cooperate to provide the [paperwork] and fled the site with some stones in the middle of the night. Two people managed to escape.
A local villager told The Post on Sunday that he saw three Vietnamese nationals and a Cambodian man transporting machinery to the site on November 15 before they started drilling two days later.
“I don’t know them. I just saw them work together so I cannot say whether or not they had a licence.
“However, I heard from villagers that police told them that if they have a licence, they may continue mining, but if they did not have one, they must stop,” he said.
Kampong Speu provincial Department of Environment deputy director Nov Nak said the authorities had inspected the site on Friday and confiscated drilling materials to bolster their investigations.
“The only people we have met and spoken with to resolve the issue are labourers, so we have to wait for their boss to resolve the situation by supplying the relevant documents.
“Meanwhile, the authorities will continue monitoring activities to prevent future crimes in the area,” Nak said.