Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mondulkiri officials ‘disciplined’

Mondulkiri officials ‘disciplined’

Timber trucks seized in Mondulkiri in February. The seizure prompted an investigation into possible collusion between high-level authorities and illegal loggers, which appears to have been closed
Timber trucks seized in Mondulkiri in February. The seizure prompted an investigation into possible collusion between high-level authorities and illegal loggers, which appears to have been closed. Photo supplied

Mondulkiri officials ‘disciplined’

A rare high-level investigation into allegations several Mondulkiri officials pocketed thousands of dollars in bribes from a Vietnamese timber smuggler may not lead to any convictions, suggests a letter obtained by The Post and comments by a provincial official.

According to the letter, obtained on Sunday and signed by army Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun, Mondulkiri Provincial Military Commander Khin Meng Sreang – who was linked to the case – has been allowed to keep his position by Defence Minister Tea Banh after being “educated” about “careless . . . mistakes”.

Meanwhile, others linked to the smuggling – including police, gendarmes, soldiers and Forestry Administration officers – had been disciplined with “transfers”, Mondulkiri Deputy Provincial Governor Choeung Sochantha said yesterday.

The investigation was triggered in February when authorities intercepted an illegal timber haul in the Keo Seima protected area and arrested seven Vietnamese nationals.

Information later released by authorities accused four officials – including two RCAF officers and two border police officials from the O’Huch border crossing – of receiving $170,000 from a Vietnamese timber trader and spreading the cash to other officials in the province.

The case was transferred in July to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, though the court’s spokesman Ly Sophanna was unreachable yesterday to discuss the case’s progress.

Sochantha, the deputy Mondulkiri governor, however said the case had been “handled gradually” and “almost solved”.

He noted former Provincial Police Chief Touch Yun and former Provincial Military Police Commander Sak Sarang, both of whom were questioned by Cambodia’s anti-logging task force over the smuggling, had been moved to other provinces.

“We have almost solved all for this province, almost all of them have been transferred,” he said.

However, Khin Meng Sreang, a brigadier general, will keep his position as Mondulkiri provincial military commander, according to the letter, which was addressed to army chief Meas Sophea.

The letter states that on August 20, Defence Minister Tea Banh decided to use “education” as a means to address soldiers who make “mistakes” and are “careless” fulfilling their “obligations”.

“Therefore His Excellency commander of the infantry should use measures to educate for Brigadier General Khin Meng Sreang, commander of Mondulkiri, but keep his position,” it reads.

Despite repeated statements from the government that a January 2016 ban on timber exports to Vietnam had stopped all but small-scale smugglers, recent Vietnamese customs data suggests the cross-border trade remains significant.

An Environmental Investigation Agency investigation released in May revealed evidence suggesting officials in Ratanakkiri had also received vast payoffs to facilitate Vietnamese-backed illegal logging.

Long-time anti-logging activist Marcus Hardtke said crackdowns and investigations into logging were a veil under which politically-connected traders jostled for position.

“It’s a well oiled system that exists under the facade of official policy and law, and the military has been a key player in it from the start,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • More than 10,000 workers suspended

    More than 10,000 workers at 18 factories in Svay Rieng province have been suspended because of Covid-19, said provincial deputy governor Ros Pharith. Home to 11 special economic zones, Pharith said Svay Rieng has not been spared as the pandemic takes a toll on the global economy. “There

  • Oz lauds Kingdom’s passage of money laundering laws

    In a press release published by the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh on Monday, the country applauded Cambodia’s stance on transnational crimes as well as its promulgation of an anti-money laundering law and a law on combating proliferation financing. The praise came after King

  • Lotus face masks designed to cover globe

    A French designer in Cambodia has produced ecological face masks from lotus fibre to supply local and international markets with an eye on preserving ancestral techniques and supporting Cambodian women in rural communities. During a trip to Asia, Awen Delaval, an eco-friendly fashion designer, was

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the

  • Planning ministry hands out cash to 420,000 poor families in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Planning has identified 20,000 more poor families in the country, bringing the total to over 580,000, while over 420,000 of them have received the government’s cash assistance. In the meantime, many social security cards from families not deemed to be poor have been revoked.

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting