The Mondulkiri Provincial Court on June 26 charged and placed nine military and police officers in pre-trial detention for forest crimes and conspiring with Vietnamese nationals to illegally export timber from the province’s Sre Khtum and Keo Seima communes to Vietnam.

Provincial court spokesman Seav Ngy Chhean told The Post on June 27 that the officers had been charged under article 59 of the Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management, articles 100 and 98 of the Forestry Law, and Article 586 of the Criminal Code.

They were among 12 suspects who had allegedly conspired to export unlicensed forest products, directly and indirectly intervened in timber trading and facilitated covert entry into Cambodia.

“Of the 12 suspects, we sent nine military and border police officers from the O’Hoch area for detention on June 26. The three other suspects – one Cambodian and two Vietnamese nationals – managed to escape,” he said.

According to the provincial environment department report, the suspects included Ouk Nakhay, the commander of A2 of battalion unit 2; Loek Nhek, the deputy commander of B2 and B3; Van Chantheary, the commander of B2 who was on standby in the area; Leang Phearoth, O’Hoch border police chief; and his deputies Prum Vannak and Phat Sokleng.

The three other suspects are Eang Chandy, who is in charge of border ring road engineering work, and two military officers identified as Duong Chan Virea and Phorn Sophal.

One of the three suspects who remain at large, Men Thim, a truck driver for the engineering corps, did not appear in court and was charged with obstructing justice.

The other two Vietnamese suspects, identified only as Bik and Chi, are on the run and charged with collecting and transporting natural resources and exporting unlicensed forest products.

Provincial environment department director Keo Sopheak said the provincial court deputy prosecutor led a joint task force to crack down on the logging operation on June 19 after they found stacks of timber in the area.

He added when forces approached the O’Hoch Bridge, two excavators and a dump truck were parked on both sides of the road and obstructed the operation.

“The team inspected and found evidence of where tractors had dragged timber across the border into Vietnam. The team collected evidence such as piles of timbers and 252 pieces of first-grade timber [sralao and sokrom timber],” he said.

The task force found two tractors, two motorcycles, one chainsaw and six sawmills.