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PM defends logging tycoons

Officials walk past tonnes of lumber at a large timber warehouse in Tbong Khmum province earlier this month during a joint operation to crack down on illegal timber smuggling. Photo supplied
Officials walk past tonnes of lumber at a large timber warehouse in Tbong Khmum province earlier this month during a joint operation to crack down on illegal timber smuggling. Photo supplied

PM defends logging tycoons

Prime Minister Hun Sen has defended the actions of two prominent tycoons accused of logging vast stretches of forest in Cambodia’s protected Virachey National Park as “legal,” according to a letter obtained by the Post.

Warning that Virachey’s forest would be “extinct in the very near future”, 23 opposition lawmakers sent a letter to the premier in July asking for an immediate halt to logging in the park by tycoons Try Pheap and An Marady.

Hun Sen’s reply came on November 16 and categorically absolved the pair of any wrongdoing.

“Both companies just collected forest products from the construction of a road in Virachey Park connecting Andong Meas district [in Ratanakkiri province] to the Dragon’s Tail area [between the Vietnam and Laos borders] and from timber seized from illegal loggers,” Hun Sen’s letter read.

“[They] followed the legal policy.”

The letter also praised the road’s construction, citing rangers’ difficulties accessing remote areas.

But Mao Monivann, one of the 23 opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers, blasted the reply.

“In short, the government just explained this away to protect the people they are close to,” he said yesterday.

The case comes amidst an ongoing government crackdown on illegal logging on the eastern border.

Timber owned by Try Pheap in Stung Treng province has been inspected, although no further details of the inspections’ results have emerged.

Heang Sopheak, Tbong Khmum provincial prosecutor, said 259 cubic metres of timber owned by another tycoon, Lim Bunna, have so far found to be illegal, while 1,826 were legal.

Other officials said they were still tallying up timber.

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