A conservation NGO yesterday sent a letter to the prime minister calling for the immediate arrest of a Kampong Speu military official alleged to have been involved in the illegal timber trade for at least two years.
“Arrest Choeung Theng for committing forestry crimes, storing and hauling timber illegally to sell in Vietnam,” reads the letter from Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resources and Wildlife Preservation Organisation.
Military Region 3 officer Choeung Theng has been missing since a warehouse filled with timber allegedly belonging to him was raided last week, but his name has cropped up in connection with the timber trade since the middle of 2015.
Recently, in June, a truck allegedly belonging to Theng caused a Kampot bridge to collapse under the weight of the timber it was carrying. When local authorities attempted to arrest the driver and seize the truck, six armed men – Theng allegedly among them – arrived on the scene, provoking a tense situation during which shots were fired.
Theng subsequently spent approximately one month in Kampot provincial prison, according to provincial court spokesman Khan Sophal. He could not remember how much money Theng put up in bail to secure his release, but added that the case against him is ongoing.
Military Region 3 chief of staff Kong Bunthorn said yesterday that he will call a meeting to discuss Theng’s case, but declined to comment further.