SIEM REAP PROVINCE
OFFICIALS in Siem Reap province have confiscated more than 150 cubic metres of luxury wood in raids on two separate hotels, one of which is owned by a government official.
Tea Kimsoth, deputy director of Siem Reap’s provincial Forestry Administration, said that during operations Sunday, authorities had discovered the wood in the nearly completed Sambara Resort and Spa Hotel and an unfinished hotel owned by Ngor Srun, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers.
“We will still keep the wood at their places, because they have large hotels, and we will put it up for bid if the court finds that the wood is illegal,” he said.
He said that 74 cubic metres of wood from the phnong tree were found in Ngor Srun’s hotel, while 83 cubic metres of sralao wood was found at the Sambara Resort. The hotels were stockpiling wood in order to construct furniture, Tea Kimsoth said.
“I believe that this is almost all of the wood stockpiled, because we have checked nearly all of the big hotels in Siem Reap,” he said.
Ngor Srun could not be reached for comment Monday.
Ty Soveinthal, Siem Reap provincial prosecutor, said court officials had not arrested the hotel owners because no laws existed to keep businesses or individuals from stockpiling timber, unless it was proven to be illegally procured.
“If you want me to arrest them, you can ask the National Assembly to amend Article 96 of the Forestry Law, which says we can only fine them,” he said.
The escalation of illegal timber raids follows a directive issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen in January, when he told an audience of military commanders that he would no longer tolerate illegal logging and other crimes perpetrated by high-ranking officials.
Ty Sokun, former director of the Forestry Administration, said in March that since the directive was issued, more than 100 raids had been conducted and more than 3,000 cubic metres of timber had been collected. However, he was fired by Hun Sen on April 6 for failing to successfully crack down on illegal logging.