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Timber firms face action

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Six timber trucks were seized and burnt down in Stung Treng province. Photo supplied

Timber firms face action

The government has said it will revoke the business licences and immediately halt the operations of five companies in Mondulkiri province’s Koh Nhek district if they are found to be involved in forestry crimes.

The warning came as authorities probe the companies’ alleged involvement in logging in the province and was made during a press conference at the Council of Ministers on Thursday.

Held under the theme Action Plans to Prevent Forestry Crimes and organised by the Royal Government Spokespersons Unit, the conference was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry Administration and the National Committee for the Prevention and Crackdown on Natural Resource Crimes.

Eng Hy, the committee’s spokesman, told The Post on Thursday that the five companies were still under investigation, and anyone found to be involved in forestry crimes would be arrested.

He identified the five companies as Master K Sun – which is owned by disgraced tycoon Soeng Sam Ol – Yan Chav, Thach Wood (Cambodia), Vichery and Neng Na.

Another firm, Lim Royal, has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Sam Ol, who held the honorific Oknha, and three accomplices have been placed in pre-trial detention after being charged with large-scale illegal logging by the Mondulkiri provincial court.

“If any of the companies are found to be involved in criminal activity, we will revoke their licences. Further investigation is required before they can be shut down. Justice cannot be served until our investigation is complete,” Hy said.

Hy said authorities are currently probing nine people suspected of illegally trafficking around 1,700 cubic metres of luxury wood in the province.

He said 43 vehicles used for transporting timber had been impounded during the recent crackdown, while another 29 had been destroyed.

Srun Darith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Environment, echoed Hy’s remarks that a thorough investigation was needed before the companies’ licences could be revoked as the firms had received economic land concessions (ELCs) from the government.

“We need to look at their [land concession] contracts with the government. If the firms are found to have violated their contracts, we will refer the case to the government for further action,” he said.

Kroeung Tola, a Mondulkiri-based forest activist, said logging and wood hauling activities allegedly involving the companies had largely stopped since the recent high-profile crackdowns.

“Some timber companies logged trees both inside and outside their economic land concessions, while others that had also received ELCs from the government simply leased their land to other firms for logging purposes."

“After the land is cleared, they leave it vacant and move on to log trees outside their boundaries,” he said.

Separately in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district, Military Police in collaboration with relevant authorities and the deputy court prosecutor intercepted six trucks used for hauling timber at five different locations.

“During the clampdown, provincial Military Police seized the trucks and destroyed them. Two piles of first- and second-grade timber were also confiscated and handed over to the Forestry Administration for further action,” he said.

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