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Three Forestry Administration officials summoned over Mondulkiri logging

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Authorities investigated at the locations of land concessions belonging to two companies in Koh Nhek district. Supplied

Three Forestry Administration officials summoned over Mondulkiri logging

Mondulkiri provincial court prosecutor Hieng Sopheak on Wednesday summoned three Forestry Administration officials to appear at the provincial Military Police headquarters by August 24 for questioning over misconduct and alleged collusion with timber traders.

The summonses come while the National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes awaits the result of its investigation at the locations of land concessions belonging to two companies in Koh Nhek district.

The summonses, issued separately on Wednesday, identified the trio as Hun Vanne, 50, chief of the Royor Forestry Administration; Loeung Phirun, 55, chief of the Sre Sangkum-Nang Khylek Forestry Administration; and Kong Virak, 46, chief of the Koh Nhek Forestry Administration.

“[The officials] are accused of permitting logging against the law, tolerating forestry crimes and failing to report or file a complaint on forestry crimes occurring in areas under their authority in a timely manner."

“[The officials] are also accused of intentional negligence in performing their duties or intentionally providing false information to higher-level authorities, leading to forestry crimes.”

Eng Hy, the national committee spokesman, told The Post on Wednesday that his officials had yet to wrap up their investigation at the locations of Vichary, a Chinese-owned firm, and Nayna, a Cambodian-owned company, in Koh Nhek district’s Royor commune.

“I have not received any results yet because they are still in the forest. We are waiting for our technical forces to finish their operation first,” he said.

Heng Sros, a forest activist in the province, said the two firms had received economic land concessions from the government and had been cutting down trees inside and outside the boundary of their concessions.

Sros alleged that both firms had also bought timber from local villagers while felling trees and transporting them from the Phnom Prich and Sre Pok wildlife sanctuaries before sawing them into pieces of timber for export to Vietnam.

In Koh Nhek district, he claimed, at least six companies are actively felling trees and trading in timber.

“Before the national committee went to inspect the locations, those companies already knew about it. They were tipped off three days beforehand, leaving them enough time to prepare and hide all the contraband."

“By so doing, only a few pieces of timber were discovered by the authorities. So what the authorities could do was write a report,” he said.

Sok Kheang, the director of the provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, while his deputy Han Sopheak declined to provide details.

“I don’t know the case well, so I dare not talk,” he said.

Keo Omalis, the government delegate in charge of the Forestry Administration under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

A report published on the National Military Police Facebook page on Wednesday said the National Committee for Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes had, of late, carried out large-scale operations to stamp out forestry crimes in provinces along the borders including Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri, Kratie and Stung Treng.

The committee had arrested an unspecified number of offenders and destroyed several seized timber vehicles. The committee is also hunting more suspects on court orders.

In Mondulkiri, a high-profile crackdown by the committee led to the arrest of prominent tycoon, Okhna Soeng Sam Ol. He and his alleged accomplices have been placed in pre-trial detention charged with large-scale illegal logging.

As of Wednesday, another 11 suspects including Cambodian and Vietnamese nationals had been either hunted or summoned for questioning in connection with the case.

Most recently, in a separate case, two Vietnamese nationals and three Cambodians were on Monday placed in pre-trial detention charged with illegal logging.

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