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PM bodyguard held over raid on Forestry Administration

Rosewood sits in the back of a vehicle on Friday at a Forestry Administration compound in Preah Vihear after it was seized by the authorities last week. Photo supplied
Rosewood sits in the back of a vehicle on Friday at a Forestry Administration compound in Preah Vihear after it was seized by the authorities last week. Photo supplied

PM bodyguard held over raid on Forestry Administration

The Kampong Chhnang Provincial Court on Saturday detained a captain in the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit on a months-old charges of obstructing a Forestry Administration official after he and a gang of alleged accomplices illegally retrieved his vehicle from impound more than two years ago, according to court spokesman Long Sitha.

Captain Lun Leng’s car was allegedly impounded by Forestry Administration officials with a load full of illegal timber in late 2013, said Sitha, who noted Leng’s charges were not for the transportation of forest products. Rather, Leng was charged in July over his alleged participation in the raid by himself and nine others on January 2, 2014 on the provincial Forestry Administration depot to retrieve the confiscated car.

“When they arrived, they did not ask [permission],” Sitha said. “They pulled the wood out and drove the car away.”

If found guilty, Leng faces between one and five years in prison, as well as a fine of 10 million to 100 million riel ($2,497 to $24,795). He was arrested on Friday morning while eating breakfast at a restaurant in Kampong Chhnang town’s Ba’er commune.

Asked why it took nearly three years to arrest Leng, Sitha said the case had been held up by court procedures.

Sitha said that he was still waiting for confirmation of Leng’s membership in the Bodyguard Unit from the Ministry of Defence, but did confirm the authenticity of a photo of a Bodyguard Unit ID card confiscated from Leng that identified him as a captain and was signed by the unit’s commander, Hing Bun Heang.

Bun Heang could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Forestry Administration had a busy weekend, according to postings on the agency’s Facebook page.

Officials in Preah Vihear’s Sangkum Thmei district confiscated a car loaded with 350 kilograms of rosewood in Chamroeun commune on Friday, although the driver fled the scene before they could be arrested.

In nearby Choam Ksan district, officials based at Preah Vihear temple successfully apprehended Heng Ravuth in Choam Ksan commune, whose car was alleged to have been loaded with 73 pieces of rosewood weighing a total of 383 kilograms.

In Siem Reap, provincial Forestry Administration officers stopped a truck loaded with 120 pieces of luxury wood in Svay Leu district’s Boeung Mealea commune. The post did not say whether a suspect was arrested.

Multiple Forestry Administration officials could not be reached yesterday for comment on the busts.

An Agriculture Ministry report issued this month revealed that while timber seizures have gone up dramatically in the past 12 months, the number of suspects being sent to court and fined have fallen.

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