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Tycoon denies timber accusations in Mondulkiri

Tycoon denies timber accusations in Mondulkiri

After ignoring summonses for two months, a prominent timber tycoon accused of illegally trading luxury-grade wood in Mondulkiri province appeared at court to deny his involvement in the case.

Investigating Judge Suy Sophea said Soeng Sam Ol, who holds the honorific of oknha, appeared for questioning this month. The judge said yesterday he believed Sam Ol was not involved in the case.

“The case was sent to court, but it does not involve him whatsoever,” he said, declining to provide further details.

Sam Ol was summonsed on October 12 to testify after the authorities’ anti-logging task force found and seized 60,000 cubic metres of timber in Keo Seima district’s Chong Plas commune, in Mondulkiri, at the beginning of the year. About 20,000 cubic metres of timber seized in the bust belonged to the Dai Than Company, chaired by Sam Ol.

The oknha stayed away from court for two months, claiming he had a health issue.

In his call to crack down on illegal timber schemes, Prime Minister Hun Sen called out Sam Ol and fellow Oknha Lim Bunna after the bust came to light in January.

Environmental activist and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Ouch Leng urged the court to take the premier’s message as further evidence to question Sam Ol, rather than drop the case based on the tycoon’s testimony.

“If the court does not take measures, it means that it does not respect our leader,” Leng said. “The witnesses are the top persons like Military Police commanders and the prime minister . . . Prime minister ordered them to fire the rockets on the oknha.”

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