Timber tycoon Try Pheap, who has been repeatedly accused of running large-scale illegal logging operations around the country, has donated three pick-up trucks to high-ranking government officials, allegedly in accordance with a request from Prime Minister Hun Sen, his company announced yesterday.
“Complying with Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, the prime minister’s, remarks, tycoon and Dr Try Pheap has brought three 2016 [Toyota] Hilux Revo cars to hand over to His Excellency Soeuy Keo, [a former general and] senator, one car; Ly Thouch, senior minister, one car; and Moung Pouy, head Ratanakkiri provincial councillor, one car; for working for the Cambodia government,” the post on the Try Pheap Group’s Facebook page reads.
It was unclear which “remarks” the post was referring to, and Eang Sophalleth, an official who often acts as a spokesperson to the premier, said he was unaware of any such request.
Despite the questionable appearance of a wealthy and controversial businessman donating a vehicle to a senator, Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang yesterday insisted the gift had “no impact” as the donation was a personal matter, and that Keo “does not have the ability to be bribed, because he is just a member of the Senate”.
“He lives in Ratanakkiri and travels to Phnom Penh for the meetings – it is very difficult,” he added. “We congratulate this.”
Contact information for the other two recipients could not be obtained yesterday.
However, San Chey, a fellow with the good governance NGO ANSA-EAP, said that given the government was meant to be regulating the businesses of tycoons like Pheap, the government had an obligation to clarify the nature of the donation.
“When the conflict of interest gets bigger and bigger . . . it can become indirect bribery.”