Police in Pursat province arrested a high-ranking military officer on Monday, accusing him of encroaching and clearing around 40 hectares of the state’s protected forest areas in Veal Veng district.
Lieutenant Colonel Suth Phearum , provincial military police deputy commander, yesterday identified the suspect as Major General Sok Chamroeun, 49. Maj Gen Chamroeun was working with the Ministry of Defence and living in Pramoy commune, in Veal Veng district.
Lt Col Phearum noted that between June and August, Maj Gen Chamroeun allegedly hired a tractor and around ten villagers to clear about 40 hectares of protected forest in Damank Kanseng village, Pramoy commune, without approval from the relevant provincial authorities.
He said that officers working in the provincial environmental department knew that Maj Gen Chamroeun was clearing the lands, and occupied it as his own on August 17 after they patrolled the surrounding areas.
He also noted that after seeing their report about Maj Gen Chamroeun’s activities, the provincial environment department director reported the matter to the of provincial court prosecutor for intervention.
Lt Col Phearum said prosecutor Koy Kanya issued a warrant for Maj Gen Chamroeun’s arrest on August 24.
He added that Maj Gen Chamroeun was arrested the same day at around 11 am at a house built on the land that he allegedly cleared.
“He was arrested because he has encroached and cleared the state’s protected forests areas – about 40 hectares of land – as his ownership was not approved by the relevant provincial authorities or other related ministries,” Lt Col Phearum said. “He was arrested in accordance with a provincial court warrant issued against him.”
He noted that after the arrest, police seized the cleared land and other related materials as state properties.
Lt Col Phearum said Maj Gen Chamroeun is accused of “illegal clearing of the state’s forests in order to occupy the land for properties” under Article 62 of the Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management.
He faces between five and ten years in prison, and a fine of between around $3,750 and $37, 500 if convicted.
Lt Col Phearum said Maj Gen Chamroeun is still being temporarily detained at the provincial military police headquarters for further investigations. He will be sent to the provincial court for questioning today.