Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ministry OKs action against officials



Ministry OKs action against officials

Authorities seize illegal timber hauled by Vietnamese nationals in Mondulkiri province last month. The case prompted an investigation, with the Ministry of Interior agreeing to allow charges against officials implicated in aiding the illegal timber trade. Photo supplied
Authorities seize illegal timber hauled by Vietnamese nationals in Mondulkiri province last month. The case prompted an investigation, with the Ministry of Interior agreeing to allow charges against officials implicated in aiding the illegal timber trade. Photo supplied

Ministry OKs action against officials

Interior Minister Sar Kheng gave his approval for court charges and administrative punishments to be brought against National Police officials who allegedly colluded with Vietnamese timber smugglers in Mondulkiri province, an Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed yesterday.

In a report signed off on by National Police chief Neth Savoeun two weeks ago, but made public on Thursday, officials from the National Police, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, the Forestry Administration and the military police were implicated in abetting illegal timber exports to Vietnam and taking bribes totalling $170,000.

The report requests that charges be brought against two National Police officials – Chum Rattanak and Leang Phearoth – as well as administrative action, which can include reassignment or “education”, against nine others.

In an interview yesterday, ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that the interior minister “totally agreed and replied to what the National Police had requested”.

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith could not be reached to confirm whether any action has already been taken, although Long Hokmeng, the Mondulkiri provincial prosecutor, yesterday said he had not received the report.

The investigation – which followed the seizure of 145 logs and the arrest of seven Vietnamese nationals in February – singled out Rattanak and Phearoth, along with RCAF border post commander Tea Khaimeng, RCAF officer Em Songhour and a Vietnamese trader named Uk Nhor as the “masterminds” of the operation.

Action against officials from bodies other than the National Police is up to their respective administrations.

Yesterday, Ministry of Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat and military police spokesman Eng Hy both said they had not yet seen the report, and declined to comment further.

The report shows that some $85,000 in bribes received by Rattanak was shared with provincial military police commander Sak Sarang and his brother Sak Sarun, the Keo Seima district military police commander.

Activists have long railed against the government for the seeming impunity of high-level officials accused of involvement in the illegal timber trade, and have expressed scepticism of the effectiveness of an anti-logging task force established last year.

In an email yesterday, Goldman-prize winning environmentalist Ouch Leng emphasised that the alleged involvement of a number of senior officials revealed by last week’s letter was indicative of a systemic problem.

“[The] timber business is a systematic and professional corruption from all levels of armed forces and high ranking governmental officials,” he wrote.

Additional reporting by Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American

  • Lost in translation: ‘Starvation’ in capital’s designated red zones

    “DACH bay” is a Khmer slang meaning a “loss of income”, that could also be literally translated to «deprived of rice”, which alludes to starvation. However, civil society organisation (CSO) officials have independently confirmed the government’s prior assertions that there are no cases of