A Forestry Administration officer in Kratie’s Chhlong district was transferred to the provincial level on Tuesday after he was filmed asking for bribes from people illegally transporting logged trees for use as stakes on pepper farms, an official said yesterday.
Khoun Chivin was filmed demanding $10 per vanload of the non-luxury cut logs used to support the growth of pepper plants, an increasingly popular crop adding to deforestation in the east, Provincial Agriculture Department Chief Kuy Huot said yesterday.
“We transferred him to the Kratie Provincial Administration,” Huot said. “For the administrative measures at the department, first we transfer and educate him, and if after we have educated him he does not change, then we will have more measures.”
Rising pepper prices have led to an increase in the past few years of the logging of already-depleted forests for use as stakes to support the plants, with numerous reports since of authorities accepting small bribes to allow for the transport of the non-luxury wood without permits.
In a video shared on Facebook and later posted to the government-aligned news site Fresh News, Chivin can be seen and heard demanding the bribes from a pepper-stake smuggler, who protests the requested amount by saying that the Military Police took less.
“Let’s go together, and I will call the boss in advance,” Chivin says to the man, threatening to bring him in for illegally transporting wood if he refuses to pay the bribe. “Now we are taking $10 per vehicle, or for the small ones 15,000 riel [about $3.75],” he says.
The smuggler replies: “Pepper is [worth] so little, brother, why are you taking so much money? . . . If I call the Military Police, they only charge 10,000 riel [$2.50],” leading Chivin to protest that he needs the money for petrol for his car after doing forestry patrols.
“Make it quick,” he says. “If I just confiscate your vehicles, I could sell them for 2 or 3 million riel [about $500 to $750].”
Chea Sopheak, a spokesperson for the provincial court’s prosecutors, said the court was aware of the transfer of Chivin to the provincial level for “education” against taking bribes, but had not yet decided whether to also pursue further action against him.