Tycoon grilled over illegal logging

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Authorities blow up the trucks seized using TNT yesterday. Fresh News

The National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention and court officials are still questioning well-known timber tycoon Soeng Sam Ol over a large-scale illegal logging operation in Mondulkiri province.

General Sao Sokha, NCFCP’s chairman, issued a warning to anyone against interfering in the case while officials destroyed four trucks seized following a crackdown on the illegal logging site on Tuesday.

Mr Sam Ol along with two managers and a driver were arrested in the province on Tuesday and more than 40 trucks used for the illegal operation were seized.

Morm Vanda, a deputy prosecutor and spokesman for the provincial court, yesterday confirmed Mr Sam Ol and his subordinates were being questioned at Mondulkiri provincial military police headquarters.

“I can confirm he is still being questioned by a working group of the National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention and other relevant officials,” he said. “The questioning is still going on and we have not concluded this case yet.”

NCFCP spokesman Brigadier General Eng Hy yesterday said Mr Sam Ol, the two managers and driver are still being questioned at the provincial military police head-quarters.

A NCFCP report said that four trucks, used for the illegal logging operation, were found deep in the forest yesterday and were blown up using TNT. It noted that the other trucks would be destroyed later.

Gen Sokha, who is also National Military Police commander, yesterday told Fresh News he will not tolerate any attempt to interfere in the case and warned that he will take strong action against anyone committing forestry crimes.

“No one is above the law and we have received orders to use an attack helicopter to shoot down illegal loggers, but we have not killed anyone yet,” he said. “We just destroy their [loggers] equipment, but did not destroy evidence related to the crime.”

He noted that after offenders are convicted and jailed, all equipment seized for evidence would be destroyed.

“I need to protect the Kingdom’s natural resources by enforcing the country’s laws in a responsible way,” he said.

In a statement issued yesterday, the NCFCP said it is committed to implement laws to act against any forestry criminals and urged the public to help protect forests.

“We appeal to authorities at all levels to jointly think, implement measures and be responsible together,” it said. “We also appeal to people to change their mindset regarding illegal logging and not to take jobs to illegally transport timber.”

A senior national military police officer, who refused to be named, yesterday criticised the NCFCP for planning to destroy the heavy vehicles and illegal timber seized from Mr Sam Ol, noting that these could be used by the state.

“I think the trucks and timber that they have confiscated should not be destroyed,” he said. “We can use them as state property, so destroying them will be like destroying state property.”

The officer said NCFCP should also investigate and identify others, including corrupt local authority officials, who may have colluded with Mr Sam Ol.

“I don’t think only four people were involved in the illegal logging and the NCFCP should set up a working group to trace local officials responsible for allowing them to carry out the timber business.

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