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‘Mondulkiri forestry crime seized evidence should be moved’

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Thousands of pieces of evidence seized from forestry crimes in Mondulkiri province. Photo supplied

‘Mondulkiri forestry crime seized evidence should be moved’

Hundreds of cars, thousands of motorbikes and chainsaws and a haul of timber impounded as evidence at Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary are falling into disrepair and should be moved for proper care, said provincial environment department director Keo Sopheak.

He said in 2016, responsibility for the sanctuary which covers some 300,000ha had been transferred from the Forestry Administration, under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, to the Ministry of Environment.

However, although the government had approved the transfer of the evidence, it was still being managed by the Forestry Administration as no formal handover had yet taken place.

Discussions between the two ministries were ongoing, Sopheak said.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had at one time wanted to remove the timber but transfer the cars and motorbikes to the Ministry of Environment.

He said he wanted the transfer to happen soon because the evidence was being kept in a disorderly manner and was hindering the Environment Department’s work.

“It is difficult both for me and the Forestry Administration. The administration has to employ staff to guard the evidence and on my side, we are not sure what to do with it because I need to use the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary as a training centre."

“It’s impeding my department’s work. If they remove it, it will be easy. If they hand it over to me, I’ll keep the cars in an orderly manner so they aren’t just scattered about randomly. I want to put in a tender so the evidence doesn’t just rot away there. The longer it’s kept, the more it is deteriorating. If we act now, a lot of it can be saved,” Sopheak said.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said: “The transfer to the Ministry of Environment has not yet been made because most of the evidence is part of ongoing court processes.”

Provincial Forestry Administration director Um Van Sopheak said: “The evidence was assessed and put out to tender some time ago but I don’t remember exactly when.”

Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary director Din Bunthoeun said he could not put a figure on the amount of seized evidence, but he said the chainsaws alone numbered more than 2,000.

“We are safeguarding the evidence for the courts. It has not been lost, but a lot of it is in a run-down state,” Bunthoeun said.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said according to the law, confiscated evidence must be kept properly by the state and not allowed to deteriorate because the court may order some items to be handed back to their original owners.

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