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NGO implicates gov’t in forestry graft

Two trailers loaded with allegedly illegal timber sit on the side of a road in Kampong Speu province last week. Photo supplied
Two trailers loaded with allegedly illegal timber sit on the side of a road in Kampong Speu province last week. Photo supplied

NGO implicates gov’t in forestry graft

Government rangers, environment department officials, military and police officers tasked with protecting the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary in Kampong Speu are allegedly taking bribes from illegal timber haulers at six different checkpoints, according to an undercover operation by a local NGO.

Officials yesterday denied the allegations, but the Natural Resources and Wildlife Preservation Organization plans to submit a complaint to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet and the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit next week to seek intervention, according to Chea Hean, director of the NGO.

Hean and eight of his staff monitored the illegal timber hauling since Friday, and also interrogated some of the transporters.

He claimed that a vehicle loaded with high-grade sokrom, pchek, tbeng and rang timber had to pay anywhere from $7.50 to $50 to officers. Those carrying even higher-grade luxury timbers had to pay bribes of up to $100, he alleged.

“The stationing of the outposts is for cracking down on forest crime, but in contrast, they allow the timber hauling to take place and they wait to get the money,” he said.

Chea Saron, director of the Forestry Administration for the Thpong and Oral districts, said his officials were not involved in accepting bribes from timber transporters, and declined to comment further on the issue.

Yorng Phearum, director of the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary, couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday.

Keat Ransy, director of the provincial Environment Department, said he wasn’t aware of the issue, but said his department would instruct Phearum to look into the allegations.

Hean also claimed that a ranger named Nuon Chork was the one leading the group of officers taking the bribes, but Ransy said he couldn’t recall anyone with that name.

In addition to the officers, timber transporters paid anywhere between $5 and $7.50 to local reporters and an NGO, Hean claimed.

NRWPO will finish a separate investigation into a similar forestry crime before submitting the request for intervention.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, Oral district police and Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary officials yesterday discovered 81 logs of illegal timber in a family’s plot of land in Sre Ken village, said Brak Moul, deputy chief of Oral District Police.

The family claimed it didn’t own the timber and declined to cooperate with officials, Moul said. The timber was taken to the wildlife sanctuary office for further investigation.

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