General Sao Sokha, commander of the National Military Police and head of National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention, yesterday led a team to check on economic land concession companies in Tboung Khmum, Kratie, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri provinces.
The inspections are part of a nationwide probe on companies suspected of being linked to the operations of timber tycoon Soeng Sam Ol who was recently arrested and charged over illegal logging.
Brigadier General Eng Hy, spokesman for the National Military Police, said Gen Sokha led inter-ministry officials to inspect warehouses and other sites where logs are kept in Tboung Khmum provinces and they will later inspect companies suspected of links with Mr Sam Ol in Stung Treng, Mondulkiri, and Ratanakiri provinces.
However, he declined to comment on the ongoing operations.
Lieutenant General Hong Vinol, deputy commander of the National Military Police, yesterday said he has been taking part in crackdowns on forestry crimes in Mondulkiri province since last month.
“Since last month we have arrested 15 suspects over forestry crimes in this province,” he said. “The suspects include Cambodians, Vietnamese and Chinese nationals.”
However Lt Gen Vinol declined to comment further and referred questions to Brig Gen Hy.
Mam Vanda, spokesman for the Mondulkiri Provincial Court, yesterday confirmed that it has so far charged 13 suspects, including six Cambodians, four Vietnamese nationals and three Chinese nationals over forestry crimes in the province.
“All of them have been charged since July 8 with different types of forestry crime,” he said.
Leng Senghan, monitor with human rights group Adhoc, yesterday said there was no illegal logging for luxury timber going on in Tboung Khmum, but noted that the province was being used as a transit point before logs were taken to Vietnam.
“There are several exit points in Tbong Khmum province through which smugglers transport logs to Vietnam,” he said.
Mr Senghan added that if the NCFCP crackdowns on forestry crimes is being done with integrity, Cambodia’s forests will be protected.
Mondulkiri Provincial Court recently summoned several provincial forestry administration officials and the managers of some private companies, including Chinese and Vietnamese firms, to appear for questioning over forestry crimes linked to Mr Sam Ol.
The summonses, issued last month, require them to be present in court for questioning between Friday and August 31.
Mr Sam Ol was arrested on July 9 and charged on July 12 over illegal logging in the province. He was arrested by military police along with two of his managers. Police initially detained Mr Sam Ol’s driver, but he was released after a period of questioning. Dozens of heavy vehicles were seized by the authorities.
Gen Sokha could not be reached for comment yesterday.