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Report fingering tycoon in timber crime taken down

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Authorities inspect a truck owned by Kith Meng’s Ang & Associates that was allegedly transporting timber to Vietnam last month. Photo supplied

Report fingering tycoon in timber crime taken down

A national police spokesman yesterday said a report alleging that tycoon Kith Meng’s Royal Group was colluding with loggers to launder timber was mistakenly posted on the body’s official site by a “tired” employee who meant to share the information with local reporters but not publish it.

Kirth Chantharith said the post appeared on the National Police website on May 16 but was later removed. It arose from a group social media exchange between a member of the police website team and local reporters from media outlets.

“On that day, [the individual] was tired and mistakenly posted an article and, frankly, we dropped it immediately after seeing a report about it,” Chantharith said. “It was wrongly uploaded. They meant to share it [with other reporters] but instead it was posted. We also wondered why the police website published an accusatory [item] like that. It is careless.”

Citing anonymous sources, the piece accused the firm of using its licence allowing it to log the reservoir area of the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam – which it is building with a Chinese firm – to launder timber sourced from other areas.

Communities in the dam’s vicinity and anti-logging activists have long levelled such allegations against the company, which has contracted its subsidiary, Ang & Associates, to clear the reservoir.

The company made headlines in April when two of its trucks transporting timber from the Sesan site were seized by customs authorities in Tbong Khmum province.

At the time, an official said the vehicles appeared to be on their way to Vietnam, in violation of a blanket ban on timber exports to Cambodia’s eastern neighbour and of their travel permits, one of which had expired.

However, reached yesterday, Tbong Khmum Provincial Prosecutor Heing Sopheak claimed the customs authorities had made a mistake in alleging the loads were heading across the border. He also said the travel permits had been in order.

If the allegations in the post are true, Chantharith suggested that other authorities regulating forestry crimes should investigate.

“There is no need to post such allegations,” he said.

Reached yesterday, Stung Treng Provincial Hall spokesman Men Kong, who last week said provincial authorities would follow up on the National Police report, said the investigation had been negated by the removal of the piece.

“After being made aware of [the post] we immediately looked for it but could not find it,” he said. “There’s nothing to work on anymore.”

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