The National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes sent six suspects, including three government officials, to the Mondulkiri provincial court on Saturday, while deputy Kratie provincial Military Police commander Sak Sarun was also summoned by the court to answer questions about forestry crimes.
Two of the six detained suspects are Forestry Administration officials and one is an official at the Environment Department.
Eng Hy, the spokesperson for the National Military Police and the National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes, told The Post on Sunday that the arrests were the result of an operation by a joint task force from several provinces.
The task force comprised of Military Police from Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu and Stung Treng provinces who worked with authorities from Mondulkiri, Oddar Meanchey and Ratanakkiri provinces.
Hy said during the operation, the police destroyed three home-made trucks and two modified tuk-tuks by setting them on fire and confiscated evidence, including 219 pieces of mixed timber, 10 cubic metres of logs, 6.18 cubic metres of a variety of processed timber, 30 pieces of Sra Lao wood and other types of timber which had yet to be measured.
“The authorities inspected timber processing facilities in four areas, finding one legal and 15 illegal operations.
“Regarding Sak Sarun’s case, it falls under the court’s jurisdiction. If he doesn’t appear as summoned, the court will take additional action,” he said.
Hy said the authorities arrested three officials on Friday – Lumphat district's Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary director Han Sokorn, 48; deputy provincial Forestry Administration head Sarou Ratana, 46; and Hun Vanne, 53, head of the Forestry Administration in Lumpat district’s Royor commune.
The three were engaged in forestry crimes with a company called Pacific, he said, and a group of Vietnamese nationals.
On Saturday, Hy said, three Chinese nationals were also detained for their suspected involvement in forestry crimes with a company called Touchwood in Mondulkiri province.
He said the Chinese suspects had threatened another Chinese national in an attempt to seize control of a location to conduct illegal forestry activities for Touchwood.
Mondulkiri provincial court spokesperson Meas Bros told The Post that the six suspects arrived at the provincial court on Sunday accompanied by police. The case had been handed over to the provincial prosecutor to decide what course of action to take.
“I reviewed the case already and forwarded it to the provincial prosecutor. As of now, the prosecutor is still questioning them."
“Maybe it will be finalised [on Monday] because the court wants to process the case quickly as well,” Bros said.
Deputy Kratie provincial Military Police commander Sarun – a former Military Police commander in Keo Seima district – was summoned to appear at the Mondulkiri provincial court on August 20 for his suspected involvement in forestry crimes.
The court summons signed by Mondulkiri provincial Investigating Judge Teang Sotha on Saturday said Sarun is to appear on August 20 at 9am “for collecting and transporting timber without legal authorisation from the Forestry Administration” in Chork Char village in Keo Seima district's Sre Preah commune on July 30, 2015.
Eang Mengly, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, told The Post that he supported the action taken by the authorities because the forest in Mondulkiri province had been destroyed over a long period without any intervention.
He said that if the authorities continued to take this type of action, he hoped that Cambodia's forests could be saved.
“I urge all relevant authorities to strictly enforce the law and effectively prevent forestry crimes,” he said.