Mondulkiri’s provincial police chief has been removed from his post less than two weeks after he spearheaded an investigation into military and police officials accused of involvement in illegal timber smuggling to Vietnam.
In a police reshuffle announced on Monday and approved by Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Mondulkiri Police Chief Toch Yon was transferred to deputy chief of the technical border police department with the National Police.
Takeo Provincial Police Chief Ouk Samnang will take up the top policing position in Mondulkiri, and Sok Samnang, a deputy chief at the Immigration Department, will become Takeo’s police chief.
On June 20, Yon and the military had launched an investigation following media reports that soldiers and officers were complicit in exporting timber across the border.
Yon could not be reached yesterday, but Provincial Governor Svay Sam Eang said the investigation had yielded no results.
“We had assigned [the relevant authorities] to do the investigation but the report showed no information about it,” he said.
“Sometimes the investigation can [uncover wrongdoing], but sometimes it cannot be found because sometimes information is made to poison the atmosphere when in fact there was no such thing.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the reshuffle was “normal”.
“People could not stay in the job for their whole life. It’s not [related] to that case, [that’s] not the motive,” he said.
However, San Chey, head of transparency NGO ANSA, said it was “not a coincidence at all”.
“We regret to hear that [a] good policeman who has [a] commitment to fight against illegal timber smuggling was transferred,” he said.