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Forestry Chief Denies Accusations

May Titthara / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Om Yentieng, the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, did not comment on the case. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Phnom Penh Central Forestry Administration Director Chanthet Thannarak yesterday defended himself against an anonymous complaint filed with the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) containing four allegations of corruption and abuse of power.
 
In a clarification letter sent by Mr. Thannarak to the ACU yesterday, he denied any involvement in the allegations.
 
The ACU announcement, dated November 23 but only made public yesterday, stated that Mr. Thannarak had been accused of four cases of abuse of his position, including stealing billions of riel in staff bonuses, pocketing payments for timber processing permits worth $2,500 each, protecting timber trucks transporting illegal wood and not properly assigning officials to investigate forestry crimes.  
 
“I have never protected the trucks [carrying wood] or let the trucks carrying wood without a permit letter to transport timber across or within the jurisdiction of my competence,” he wrote.
 
“Trucks carrying wood without a permit and/or transporting timber from depots and factories illegally have to face strict legal procedures.”
 
He added that the annual bonus for Phnom Penh Forestry Administration officials is in the millions of riel (more than $250), not the billions as alleged, and was fairly distributed based on hard work.
 
Contrary to allegations that he had pocketed $2,500 for each issuance of timber depots and factories, Mr. Thannarak wrote that the permit price had been set at $250 each by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the allegation was therefore impossible.
 
Mr. Thannarak could not be reached for comment yesterday, while ACU director Om Yentieng said he was too busy to answer questions and then could not be reached.
 
In 2015, Transparency International Cambodia listed the country as one of the most corrupt among 168 surveyed, noting that corruption was hindering economic development, caused poverty and threatened social and political stability.
 
They added that whistleblowers and anti-corruption officers often faced intimidation or dismissal and called on the government to address corruption.
 
In April, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the arrest of “inefficient” public servants, who he identified as likely not being members of the ruling CPP, as they were bringing the government into disrepute.

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