Timber graft case snares officers

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Officials have been called in for questioning. Supplied

More than 10 police and military officers in Mondulkiri province have been summoned for questioning over a big corruption case involving illegal timber exports to Vietnam.
 
The order came from the National Commission to Prevent and Suppress Natural Resources Offenses, which was set up by the government in December.
 
Two police officials could face court action, while others may be punished and moved to another location.
 
Details of a crackdown on the illegal trade of taking timber across the border were set out in a letter from National Police chief Neth Savoeun to Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Thursday last week.
 
It said five police officers from the Kok Ou Huch border station, five from Ou Chum police station and some border military officials had fled.
 
The letter said Ou Chum police chief Chum Rotana and military officials Tea Khaimeng and Em Sokhour conspired with Vietnamese timber broker Ouk Nhor to run the timber operation after a $170,000 bribe.
 
The letter added that $85,000 went to Mr. Khaimeng and Mr. Sokhour and the rest to Mr. Rotana to share with five other officials.
 
National Police concluded that 11 police officials and two military officials conspired with the Vietnamese broker in cutting down forest timber and taking it illegally into Vietnam.
 
In the letter, the National Police asked Mr. Kheng to prepare a case to bring Mr. Rotana and Ou Huch police chief Leang Phearoth to court.
 
The letter also requests the transfer of nine police officials who accepted bribes from Mr. Rotana.
 
The letter recommended that the commission investigate and take action against two other military officials.
 
Military police spokesman Eng Hy said he could not confirm details of the case.
 
He said commission investigators had been working on the case since Monday.
 
Mondulkiri provincial police chief Touch Yun could not be reached for comment. Deputy chief Mey Arn said that as of yesterday, the police under investigation were being questioned at the Provincial Hall.
 
Chea Hean, the director of NGO the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization, applauded the commission’s action against military and police officials who conspired with illegal businesses.
 
He said: “It’s a good thing that the National Police found out about their officials and I hope that they will continue further research into police and businesses involved in cross-border forest crimes.”
 
Mr. Hean urged the commission to enforce the law strictly and said they should seize property from corrupt people in addition to convictions, rather than merely transferring them from one to place to another.
 
In the crackdown on illegal timber transportation into Vietnam, the commission arrested seven Vietnamese people and seized 145 pieces of wood equivalent to more than 197 cubic meters, eight trucks, a chainsaw and five motorcycles.

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