A community forest chief in Oddar Meanchey province is pursuing legal action against a pair of soldiers over an incident last month in which they allegedly beat and threatened forest patrollers who caught them transporting luxury timber.
The Venerable Bun Saluth, head of the Sorng Rukhavorn community forest, filed a complaint to the Forestry Administration on Friday accusing soldiers Moeng Duong and Sam Pisey of forestry crimes and threatening to set a patroller’s family on fire after patrollers stopped a mini-tractor loaded with timber.
“If they have a position they need to be demoted, because the people who committed the crime should not have a title,” Saluth said in an interview yesterday.
“They are not soldiers defending the country or protecting the people. They are thieves.”Reached yesterday, Regiment 424 Commander Sin Pean denied that his soldiers had “attacked” the patrollers.
“It actually was just pushing and not using any weapons,” Pean said.
Pean acknowledged that Duong was at fault for taking the tractor and timber back from the patrollers and fleeing. However, he denied that Duong had been logging timber himself and said he merely purchased the wood from a villager to make furniture.
Pean added that he had already educated and punished Duong “based on the regiment’s rules”, but would not elaborate further.
“We are not careless about this,” Pean said. It is illegal to transport luxury timber without a permit, regardless of its purpose, according to Cambodia’s forestry law.
The law also states that military officials who threaten Forestry Administration officers or commit forestry crimes are subject to one to five years in prison and a fine of 10 million to 100 million riel, or $2,500 to $25,000.