Tycoon Soeng Sam Ol and three alleged accomplices have been placed in pre-trial detention after being charged with illegal logging, while more than 40 vehicles reportedly used to carry out the offences were handed over to Mondulkiri provincial authorities on Sunday.
Committee spokesman Eng Hy said on Sunday that the National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes has transferred the vehicles allegedly used to transport illegally logged timber to the Mondulkiri provincial authorities, with the local court to decide whether they will be destroyed.
“We have handed over the more than 40 vehicles to the local authorities. It is up to the Mondulkiri provincial court to rule on whether they should be destroyed, but the National Military Police has not received the order to do so. The investigation and search for more suspects continue,” said Hy, who is also National Military Police spokesman.
Mondulkiri provincial administration spokesman Sok Sera confirmed that the vehicles had been transferred to the Mondulkiri provincial authorities.
The vehicles were being guarded while a report was made on the evidence, including the size of the haul and the amount of luxury timber seized.
“We have not yet decided whether to destroy the vehicles or not. They are being kept at a safe place before a decision is made, pending advice from top leadership."
“In my opinion, we don’t need to destroy the vehicles. Vehicles in good condition could be handed over to the military or the Military Police, with others given to the provincial department of en-vironment for use,” Sera said.
Mondulkiri provincial court spokesman Meas Pros said on Sunday that Sam Ol, who holds the honorific of oknha, and three others were charged on Friday evening and placed in pre-trial detention.
“The court charged them with three offences: collecting forest resources without permission, transporting forest resources without permission, under articles 96 and 98 of the Forestry Law, and using vehicles without proper number plates,” Pros said.
After the Mondulkiri provincial court charged the four men, five officials whose work is related to forestry were questioned by the National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resources Crimes on Saturday before being released at 5pm.
Other officials will be summoned subsequently to answer questions on how the forestry crimes had occurred under their authority, a National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resources Crimes report stated.
The five officials questioned on Saturday included Sok Kheang, the director of the provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Keo Sopheak, the director of the provincial Department of Environment; and Um Vann Sopheak, the director of the province’s Forestry Administration.
Pen Pheaktra, the chief of the Srepok wildlife sanctuary, and Han Sokhon, the chief of Phnom Prich wildlife sanctuary, were also quizzed.
In a separate case, Long Yoeng, the deputy commander of the Kratie provincial Military Police, said that officials on Saturday had destroyed seven trucks and cranes that timber dealers had hidden in a farm in O’Krieng commune’s O’Preah village.
Meanwhile, Stung Treng provincial Military Police destroyed six trucks after a crackdown on illegal logging last Tuesday in Sesan district’s Kbal Romeas commune.
Ieng Vandy, the commander of the provincial Military Police, said that after receiving an order from General Sao Sokha, National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resources Crimes chief and commander of the National Military Police, he had ordered the six vehicles destroyed on the spot.
Elsewhere, a joint force on Friday arrested three Cambodians and two Vietnamese for illegally entering the forest in Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district to cut down trees.
A police officer who asked not to be named said the five were sent to the provincial court on Saturday.
Morm Vanda, Mondulkiri provincial court deputy prosecutor, confirmed five people had been questioned by the court.
“They were sent to the court and questioned, but I do not know yet what they will be charged with,” Vanda said.