Logging baron Try Pheap has been hit with more than $85,000 worth of fines by the Kratie provincial Public Works and Transport Department this month, after trucks belonging to his company continued to ply National Road 7 despite carrying significantly more timber than allowed, a top department official has said.
Srey Sakhun, the provincial Public Works and Transport Department deputy director, said yesterday that a special team he leads to monitor cargo trucks on the roads had intercepted 23 trucks belonging to the Try Pheap Group that were carrying as much as double the allowed load in two separate incidents this month.
On February 11, Sakhun said, 16 trucks carrying anywhere from 10 to 30 tonnes of luxury timber above the 25-tonne cargo limit were stopped at the Svay Antor intersection, and the company was fined 300 million riel (about $74,000).
But despite the heavy fine, on February 22, authorities intercepted another seven similarly overloaded trucks also belonging to Try Pheap in Sambor district’s O’Krieng commune. They levied another 61 million riel ($15,000) fine.
“This overloading of trucks is damaging the national road, so our authorities need to intercept and fine them,” he said.
“We demand that the truck-owning company takes out the overloaded timber and load it into other available trucks so that the transport is then in accordance with the law,” Sakhun said.
Earlier this month, UK-based investigation group Global Witness claimed that Try Pheap was running a complex illegal logging network dependent on the complicity of government officials, the military, police and customs officials to traffic protected logs across the country and onwards for export.
But Sakhun said it was not under his purview to decide whether the timber in question was illegal. He suggested such questions be put to the Kratie Forestry Administration.
Its head, Try Sopheak, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Heng Phearak, provincial monitor for rights group Adhoc, said he was pleased the authorities had cracked down on overloaded trucks, because they caused serious damage to the national road.
“We sincerely support this crackdown measure since it not only protects the public road but also helps to save the state budget spent on annual road renovation,” he said.
But Phearak added that the Forestry Administration needs to investigate the timber found in overloaded trucks and take action if it is illegally felled.
“We need the government to stop allowing the companies to cut down the trees and to crack down more upon it,” he said.
A representative of the Try Pheap Group reached yesterday said he couldn’t comment on the incidents.