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

  • Rainsy stopped in Paris from boarding Thai flight

    Airline officials at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday prevented Sam Rainsy from boarding his flight to Bangkok ahead of his announced return to Cambodia on Saturday. Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier in the day assured Phnom Penh residents that there would be

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Prayut indicates no entry into Thailand for CNRP’s Rainsy

    Cambodian government officials on Wednesday welcomed the position of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after he indicated that Sam Rainsy would not be allowed to return to Cambodia through Thailand. “According to our commitment to Asean, we will not interfere in each other’s internal