Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - No action on standoff claim

No action on standoff claim

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Soldiers and a Forestry Administration official pose for a photo last month with illegal timber that was seized in Kampong Speu’s Oral district. Photo spplied

No action on standoff claim

Gunshots were fired in a tense standoff between two armed groups in Kampong Speu province’s Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary last month, prompting a court investigation into what happened.

Members of the NGO-sponsored Wildlife Rapid Response Team (WRRT), which is comprised of armed forest rangers and overseen by the Wildlife Alliance, had attempted to impound 6 cubic metres of luxury timber in the sanctuary on June 10.

However, the five military officers allegedly transporting the timber had other ideas.

Led by a military officer identified to the court as Choeung Theng, the soldiers have been accused of “interfering with the authorities, concealing evidence of forest crimes and attempted murder”, according to a complaint filed to the court.

More than 20 days after the complaint was filed on behalf of the WRRT by local forest network the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization (NRWPO), a court official yesterday admitted that no action had been taken.

The six plaintiffs are Major Sieng Um, a military police commander; Second Lieutenant Mel Saream, a military police officer; Second Lieutenant Be Chamreun, a soldier from Region 3; Khy Horm, a military police officer; and Wildlife Alliance employees Chorn Hong and Kong Chetra.

Um said the WRRT had stopped a Hyundai truck loaded with more than 750 planks of Pchek timber totalling more than 6 cubic metres, on June 10.

The driver bolted, but as the WRRT officials were leaving the area, a car blocked their path and guns were pulled on the rangers by a group of soldiers.

“His truck was loaded with illegal timber, but he pointed the pistol at us to rob it back. He yelled that no one is able to take his items away,” he alleged.

“When we refused to hand him back the truck and timber, he wanted to shoot at us and swore at us badly. He walked around with the gun pointed at us.”

The WRRT team then fired several warning shots in the air, causing the soldiers to retreat and giving the rangers time to call for backup.

Theng could not be reached yesterday.

Chea Hean, the Kampong Speu director of the NRWPO, said he was preparing to forward the case directly to the Ministry of Justice if an investigation was not launched.

The lawsuit was stamped with a court seal on June 15, however Keo Sothear, the provincial prosecutor, said he had only received the documents yesterday.

“I just got the lawsuit a few minutes ago. I do not know why [it was delayed].

I am checking it in order to take legitimate actions,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by

  • Chinese influence to sweep Kingdom?

    Growing Cambodia-China ties have seen the latter’s influence sweep across the Kingdom through increased investments and tourism. The Asian giant has become the leading source of foreign funds in Cambodia, fuelling the construction sector with huge casino and hotel projects. Much of the growth

  • Western poll flak is ‘pressure to take the Kingdom hostage’

    After last month’s national elections brought praise for the orderly manner they were run and managed, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan dismissed criticism from the West as a “violation of the Kingdom’s independence”. He said the attitude of