Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mondulkiri journalist hauled in over logging story




Mondulkiri journalist hauled in over logging story

A pile of smouldering logs sits in a Mondulkiri ELC belonging to Binh Phuoc Kratie Rubber 1 last month after they were allegedly burned in an attempt to conceal forestry crimes. Photo supplied
A pile of smouldering logs sits in a Mondulkiri ELC belonging to Binh Phuoc Kratie Rubber 1 last month after they were allegedly burned in an attempt to conceal forestry crimes. Photo supplied

Mondulkiri journalist hauled in over logging story

A journalist reporting on logging in Mondulkiri was picked up and interrogated by military police yesterday, following a story of his that implicated a senior military official in illegal logging.

Local journalist Van Tith says he was forcefully taken from his home in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima district and driven to provincial military police headquarters to be questioned for several hours by provincial commander Sak Sarang – the man Tith’s report, read out on TV a day earlier, had claimed was a linchpin in Mondulkiri’s illegal timber trade.

“At the provincial military police base, [Sak Sarang] asked me, ‘Why do you broadcast that I am a timber trader in Binh Phuoc company?’” Tith said, referring to a company that has been accused of involvement in the illicit trade.

In his defence, Tith said that his boss, Em Bunthoeun, had confirmed the connections in the article between Sarang and logging.

On Wednesday, Bunthoeun, a veteran newscaster of the national news program Cambodia Today on TV 9, took to the airwaves and broadcast the article implicating Sarang in widespread logging in the province, including ownership of logs that were burned on a Binh Phuoc land concession last month in an apparent bid to destroy evidence ahead of a raid by a recently established anti-logging committee.

“According to trusted and confidential sources, that one can investigate on the issue, General Sak Sarang, Mondulkiri Provincial Military Police commander, is clearly a covert and prominent timber trader,” a confident Bunthoeun said in his broadcast.

It was only “children in primary school” that were unaware of the extent of the military commander’s involvement, with other senior provincial military officials also involved in the trade, he said.

Contacted yesterday, Bunthoeun stood by his story and said he was disappointed that the rights of his journalist had been violated for speaking the truth.

Several NGO and local officials in Mondulkiri interviewed by the Post yesterday went on to validate Bunthoeun’s claims.

“Sarang uses many networks to oppress people for his own economic benefits,” said one CPP official who asked not to be named.

The source claimed that Sarang used his power to provide protection to loggers, and had been involved in land-grabbing cases among ethnic minority groups, but his powerful position ensured those cases were ignored.

An NGO source working in the area backed up the claims, adding that Sarang was not operating alone, but with a deep and powerful network.

Contacted yesterday, Sarang denied the allegations and said that “a lawsuit is a must”.

“It is not true; they broadcast it wrongly,” he said. “The reporter cannot just broadcast what he wants as we have the defamation law.”

Eng Hy, spokesman of the National Military Police, said he was aware of the allegations, but could not confirm whether or not they would be investigated as part of the anti-logging commission’s remit, as it was up to “higher-level officials”.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Potential shield’ for virus hangs in balance

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) suspended trials of the drug that US president Donald Trump has promoted as a coronavirus defence, fuelling concerns about his handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 US citizens. Trump has led the push for hydroxychloroquine as a potential

  • Gov’t rolls out stimulus to keep businesses afloat

    The government has introduced the fourth round of stimulus measures aimed at ensuring economic and social stability during the outbreak of the Covid-19 disease. The move, which was announced on Tuesday, is designed to help businesses, factories and enterprises to stay afloat while reducing the

  • E-cigarette back in spotlight amid virus pandemic

    The Ministry of Health’s Department of Communicable Disease (DCD) department has released a video about the effects of smoking, while the NGO Cambodia Movement for Health (CMH) warned against the use of electronic cigarettes or vape. The short video clip that was posted on

  • Por Sen Chey woman murdered

    Por Sen Chey district police are searching for a suspect who robbed and killed a woman in a rented room in Samraong Kraom commune in Phnom Penh at 6:30pm on Monday. Deputy district police chief Chea Sovann told The Post on Tuesday that the victim,

  • Police chief: remove all roadblocks

    National Police chief Neth Savoeun warned Phnom Penh and provincial police chiefs to remove all roadblocks, saying that traffic police officials in some provinces had tightened traffic law implementation against guidelines. In a leaked voice message which was shared on social media on Tuesday, Savoeun

  • Capital calls for Covid-19 caution

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Hall announced on Monday that authorities in the city’s 14 districts must encourage people to continue various safety measures to prevent a second wave of Covid-19. It called on administrations, departments and units to educate residents on daily living habits like