Members of a conservation group in Kampong Thom province stopped a van carrying illegal timber on Sunday night only to be threatened by a man claiming to be the nephew of a powerful National Assembly parliamentarian.
The van was driving with no licence plate and was stopped in the province’s Sandan district, according to Moeung Hun, a member of the Prey Lang Community Network.
Inside the van were four people and more than 12 cubic metres of timber.
But the evidence wasn’t enough to deter the van’s owner from coming to the scene and shouting that he was unafraid of the forest activists thanks to his powerful connections.
“We tried to ask him who had his back. At first he did not say, just mentioned someone below Hun Sen,” said Hun.
“But later, in a bad mood, he shouted that he is a nephew of [Cambodian People’s Party member] Ngoun Nhel, second vice president of the National Assembly.”
Min Heang, a villager at the scene, added the man said he would “beat to death [anyone who stopped him] and pay 3 million riel [about $737] per body”.
The man was questioned by local authorities yesterday, said Hun.
According to Sandan district forest administration official Chhoem Kheurn, the van owner’s name is Moel Poeun, 62, from Kampong Thom.
Poeun will be summonsed to provincial court this morning, said Kheurn.
However, it remains unclear whether Poeun is actually related to Nhel, as neither could be reached yesterday.