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Court questions senior official over distribution of ELCs

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times Share:
Agriculture Ministry undersecretary of state Lor Reaksmey. Swift News

A senior Agriculture Ministry official yesterday gave Mondulkiri Provincial Court his expertise on how companies are granted Economic Land Concessions.

The authorities have been ramping up efforts against forestry crimes in the province. Two well-known timber tycoons, Soeng Sam Ol and Kong Kroeng, have already been indicted for allegedly running large-scale illegal logging operations in Kratie and Mondulkiri provinces.

About 20 other people, including provincial environment officials and owners of companies, have been summoned to be questioned over links to forestry crimes.

Pacific Grand Joint-Stock Company Limited, an investment company, became the latest to be scrutinised.

Pacific Grand is owned by Vietnamese national Pham Quoc Long, who serves as the company’s director.

The company received an ELC in Mondulkiri’s Koh Nhek district in 2011 for a rubber plantation, but the court suspects that the company has been logging beyond its allowed areas.

According to a court document, Mr Pham is to appear before the court’s prosecutor on August 30 to answer questions regarding links to illegal logging.

Ahead of Mr Pham’s appearance, the court yesterday questioned Lor Reaksmey, undersecretary of state with the Agriculture Ministry.

Mam Vanda, spokesman for the court, said Mr Reaksmey was summoned by the court because it needed his expertise.

“It was necessary that we invite him for questioning,” Mr Vanda said, noting that Mr Reaksmey was allowed to go home.

“We summoned him so he could clarify the processing procedures for all companies,” he said. “It’s related to an investigation, so we can’t provide details about the case.”

A separate court document revealed that Mr Reaksmey was to be questioned about how an investment company like Pacific Grand was able to be granted nearly 10,000 hectares of land.

“A prosecutor will ask questions related to the distribution of 1,000 hectares of land in Region I, 2,000 hectares in Region II, 2,000 hectares in Region III, 2,000 hectares in Region IV and 2,741 hectares in Region V,” the document said.

Srey Vuthy, spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry, said Pacific Grand has permission to only clear forests located within its designated area.

“The ministry allowed the company to clear forests,” Mr Vuthy said.

Mr Vuthy said Mr Reaksmey left for Mondulkiri on Tuesday in order to show up for questioning and that he was accompanied by other ministry officials.

“Some ministry officials accompanied him and the ministry prepared documents for him to bring,” Mr Vuthy said.

Mr Reaksmey could not be reached for comment yesterday. Pacific Grand representatives also could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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