National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy on Monday denied a news report that Svay Rieng Military Police were extorting money when they stopped seven lorries on April 13 for transporting charcoal across the border for sale in Vietnam.
Hy said Military Police stopped the lorries for delivering forest product without permission from the forestry administration under Article 69 of the Law on Forestry.
According to Article 78 of the Law on Forestry, Svay Rieng military police can detain offenders and retrieve evidence to send to the Forestry Administration. In this case, the haul was 1,389 sacks of charcoal weighing 56,130kg.
The police handed over the case and the evidence to Romeas Hek Forestry Administration director Neth Kok, but he didn’t have enough storage space so it was requested that the evidence be kept temporarily at the Svay Rieng Military Police headquarters, said Hy.
LSN.TV reported: “Svay Rieng Military Police detained lorries delivering charcoal, accused the drivers of illegal offence, fined each person 10 million riel and did not give the lorries back. Please help to share.”
Hy has requested that LSN.TV change its report and publish a corrected version. If the news outlet refuses, he said he would file a complaint to the Ministry of Information.
Svay Rieng provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Thach Ratana could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Svay Rieng provincial Forestry Administration director Kol Sovann refused to comment on Tuesday. LSN.TV producer Los Seng was also not available.
The LSN.TV reporter interviewed one of the seven lorry owners on Monday. The owner said that Svay Rieng Military Police detained the lorries while they were delivering charcoal to sell in Vietnam.
Authorities said the men did not have a charcoal business document, but the owner said he did not know that delivering charcoal required those documents.
He said he tried to negotiate with the police but they sent the case to the Forestry Administration and the court. The court required them to pay 10 million riel and they still did not get the lorries back, he said.
“We are poor [people] who have a small charcoal business and we borrowed from the bank to buy the lorry. When the authorities take the lorries like that, how can we make money to pay the bank back,” the owner asked.