Interior Ministry and Mondulkiri provincial forestry administration cantonment officials have denied a Radio Free Asia report saying that timber is being illegally smuggled from the province to Vietnam.
In October, RFA cited anonymous local sources who said that timber is regularly smuggled using modified SUVs through corridors in Pich Chreada district.
Officials from the ministry’s central department of border police earlier this month investigated the case and have since concluded that there are no such cases as reported by RFA Khmer.
Lieutenant General Hou Sakun, director of the central department of border police, declined to comment yesterday.
However, last week Lt Gen Sakun denied RFA’s report in a statement.
“After the report by Radio Free Asia, central department of border police officers went down to the site along with provincial authorities and police,” he said. “There was not such case as RFA reported.”
Last week, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said RFA is free to reopen its in-country office so long as it follows government regulations.
RFA shuttered operations after citing an alleged “relentless crackdown on independent voices”.
Song Kheang, director for the provincial forestry administration cantonment, yesterday said he did not pay attention to RFA’s reporting and that he was only doing his job to ensure that forestry crimes are prevented.
“I don’t care about what Radio Free Asia was reporting because I believe that our officers are doing their best to prevent forestry crimes,” Mr Kheang said. “It is their right to report, but whether it was true or not, we are just doing our jobs.”
He noted however that RFA’s report was opposite to what the reality is.
Eang Meangly, coordinator with the provincial branch of the rights group Adhoc, yesterday said community members living in the area know whether timber smuggling occurs.
“Before, I received complaints, but that was a long time ago. I have not received any reports in the last few years,” he said. “Community members who live in the area can tell whether it is true or not.”