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Timber oknha misses hearing

Officials attempt to extinguish a forest fire last year on Oknha Soeng Sam Ol’s Dai Than Company land in Mondulkiri province.
Officials attempt to extinguish a forest fire last year on Oknha Soeng Sam Ol’s Dai Than Company land in Mondulkiri province. Photo supplied

Timber oknha misses hearing

An oknha accused of overseeing a massive illegal logging scheme in Mondulkiri has yet to appear for a court summons issued more than a month ago, according to the investigating judge.

Mondulkiri Provincial Court Investigating Judge Suy Sophea issued the summons for Soeng Sam Ol – who holds the honorific title of “oknha” – in September, but said yesterday that the tycoon’s lawyers filed for a postponement “because he is sick”.

“It does not mean that he will not appear,” Sophea said. “He has not said that he will not come.”

Sam Ol is accused of conducting widespread logging inside Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri and laundering it through his rubber plantation, Dai Than Company, which has an economic land concession in the area.

Dai Than is one of seven companies that the national anti-logging task force has accused of wide-scale illegal logging, seizing more than 60,000 cubic metres of illegal timber in a series of raids last year. More than 20,000 cubic metres were confiscated from Dai Than.

Sam Ol and fellow oknha Lim Bunna were later singled out by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who called on police to crack down on them.

Courts began summonsing companies and individuals involved in the logging scheme in May, but progress on the case has been slow.

Sophea issued the summons for Sam Ol more than a year and a half after his alleged crimes and called for the tycoon to appear in court on October 12 to testify about the “logging, collecting and processing of all kinds of luxury timber” in Keo Seima district’s Chong Plas commune.

The summons was leaked online over the weekend. Sam Ol could not be reached for comment yesterday and Sophea said he did not remember the name of Sam Ol’s lawyer or have a way to contact him. He also said he has not decided on when to summons Sam Ol again.

Anti-logging activist and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Ouch Leng yesterday called Sam Ol’s postponement a delay tactic.

“There is a difference between politically motivated cases and cases involving poor people, who are jailed even though there is no clear evidence yet,” Leng said.

“The powerful and rich people are behind those oknhas, who do not worry about the destruction of natural resources, but they keep thinking about how to run the timber trade,” Leng added. “This is the bad behaviour of those oknhas.”

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