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NGO calls on PM to crack down on officials involved in timber trade

People inspect the damage to a ruined bridge last week in Kampot province after an overloaded logging truck tried to pass over it. National Police
People inspect the damage to a ruined bridge last week in Kampot province after an overloaded logging truck tried to pass over it. National Police

NGO calls on PM to crack down on officials involved in timber trade

The director of an anti-illegal logging NGO has called for Prime Minister Hun Sen to clamp down on timber smuggling to Vietnam by state officials, which has allegedly continued despite a much-trumpeted government operation to halt the trade.

The complaint by Chea Hean, the director of the Nature Resource and Wildlife Preservation, came as yet more timber-laden trucks were stopped on Tuesday and yesterday in Mondulkiri, where authorities have this year recorded between 60 and 70 cases of illegal logging.

Hean, who last week alleged a military police officer and solider were involved with two timber smuggling rings in Kampong Speu province, said he had sent several complaints to relevant ministries but no action was taken.

He said his investigations had uncovered evidence of syndicates logging luxury wood in and around Oral wildlife sanctuary, which covers parts of Kampong Speu, Pursat and Koh Kong provinces.

The complaint said authorities were made aware in March that a makeshift truck carrying timber was sighted exiting an Environment Ministry branch in Trapaing Chor commune, in Kampong Speu’s Oral district.

NGO also tipped off state officials about a stockpile of 10 cubic metres of timber in the same area in April and May.

Involvement by members of the military police, Environment Ministry, Forestry Administration, military, police and customs office meant trucks could travel unhindered to Vietnam, he alleged.

“Although the Minister of Environment [Say Sam Al] says smuggling to Vietnam had been stopped, we still see trucks going,” Hean said.

Hean also called for Hun Sen to take action to find the driver of an overloaded truck carrying timber which destroyed a bridge last Friday in Kampot province.

Meanwhile, the director of Mondulkiri’s provincial Environment Ministry office, Chhith Sophal, said authorities yesterday seized two timber-laden trucks, though were yet to tally the haul.

The bust was in Keo Seima district where military police on Tuesday seized a truck transporting 12 pieces of luxury wood felled within the district’s wildlife sanctuary, according to Keo Seima Forestry Administration Choy Sokheang.

“We are still looking for the owner to bear responsibility . . . We will send the case to court,” Sokheang said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Hean’s complaint would be forwarded to the relevant ministries and the taskforce established in January to fight illegal logging, headed by military police chief Sao Sokha.

If the activities were illegal, the court would “uphold the law no matter who it is”, he said.

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