Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Timber charges for soldiers

Timber charges for soldiers

One of four soldiers arrested in Preah Vihear province late last week, who was yesterday charged for illegally trading timber. GRK
One of four soldiers arrested in Preah Vihear province late last week, who was yesterday charged for illegally trading timber. GRK

Timber charges for soldiers

Four soldiers from Border Regiment 405 were charged at Preah Vihear Provincial Court yesterday with facilitating the trade in illegal timber.

Court spokeswoman Chum Kanniva identified the soldiers as Pol Kha, 37; Khon Rin, 34; Rom Dol, 29 and Thin Pisey, 37. They are alleged to have allowed loggers from Ansaes village in Choam Ksan district to cross into Thailand in return for $10 bribes.

If found guilty, they could face up to five years in prison.

Choam Ksan district military police commander Pich Sophy said the alleged graft came to light after his officers stopped a Toyota Camry loaded with 810 kilograms of Siamese rosewood in Ansaes village on Friday.

Unlike in the vast majority of timber stops, the driver and his assistant – Uon Im, 31, and Chhoy Bie, 35 – were both arrested, and under questioning, Im identified the four Border Regiment 405 soldiers as having allowed him to bring the wood, an internationally protected species, back from Thailand.

“He hauled the wood for another trader,” Sophy said. “The driver told us about the people involved and the cash payments for passage at the Ansaes border crossing. The timber is logged in Thailand; rosewood in our country is gone already.”

Police and members of the military are widely believed to be deeply involved in the illegal timber trade, though arrests are rare. In fact, just last week, a substantial timber bust was made at the lumberyard of military official Choeung Theng – who has been implicated in the trade multiple times, including when one of his trucks loaded with timber destroyed a Kampot bridge – though no arrest was made, and Theng is believed to now be in Thailand.

Provincial military chief of staff Eng Hoeung said he was aware of the charges against the four soldiers and urged the court to proceed with the case against them.

“If the court finds that they are guilty, then the court should follow its procedures. We don’t support them committing crimes,” Hoeung said, adding that their regiment had previously explicitly prohibited soldiers to aid timber traders.

However, Lor Chann, Preah Vihear coordinator for rights group Adhoc, noted that, “Generally, it’s not possible for the timber trade to run unless there is collusion with border guards and similar officials.”

Meanwhile, Chann said, in recent months, families had reported at least 26 Cambodians going missing after crossing into Thailand in search of rosewood, usually after run-ins with Thai authorities.

With the exception of Rovieng district resident Iem Chimravy, 25, none have been heard from since.

Chimravy’s grandmother, Tith Him, 73, said that nine villagers, two of her grandchildren among them, were promised $250 a week by a timber broker to cross into Thailand in search of timber. But when they crossed the border, Thai officials began to shoot.

“We don’t know who was injured, who died, or who was arrested,” Him said.

Provincial anti-human trafficking police chief Prang Thida, meanwhile, said her office is investigating reports of up to 40 missing loggers in Thailand.

MOST VIEWED

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Baby saved as mother is lost to Covid

    Newborn baby Neth David has had a rough start in the world. His mother, Vong Daneth, was seven months pregnant when she contracted a severe case of Covid-19. When it became clear to her doctors that she would not survive, they performed a cesarean section

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • Governor: Covid subsides in capital

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng said the Covid-19 situation in the capital’s 14 districts has eased, with only two districts still recording a high number of infections. “Transmission cases in all districts are dropping, though they are relatively higher Meanchey and Por Sen Chey.

  • Hun Sen: Get 12-17 age group ready for Covid jabs

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has told parents of children aged 12-17 in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal and Preah Sihanouk to get them ready for vaccinations soon. “There is a need to vaccinate children and youths aged 12 to 17. According to the statistics provided