Ten men including border police, soldiers and a Vietnamese national, who remains at large, were charged on Saturday with plotting to export unlicensed timber forest products across the Cambodia-Vietnam border as well as logging in protected areas. The arrest of the nine men has caused some civil society groups to call for further action against what has been described as systemic corruption that supports illegal logging.
Seav Ngichoan, deputy prosecutor and spokesman for the Mondulkiri provincial court, said that a Vietnamese national who remains at large has been charged with collecting and exporting timber without a license and trespassing on Cambodian territory illegally. The Cambodians charged include Second Company Commander Ouk Nakhai, his deputy commanders Loek Nhek and Eang Chandy, an assistant, Duong Chanvireak, Men Thoem, O’Huch police chief Van Chantheary, border protection unit police chief Leang Phearoth and his two deputies, Prom Vannak and Phat Sokleng,
Provincial environment department director Keo Sopheak, confirmed that the nine suspects had been arrested on Friday June 25 in relation to illegal logging committed in the O’Huch area in Keo Seima district’s Sre Khtum commune on the border of Vietnam and Cambodia.
“These nine people are local police and soldiers who were committing business illegally with Vietnamese at the border,” he said. He added that the authorities were now cooperating with relevant parties to find further perpetrators.
National Anti-Deforestation Committee spokesman Eng Hy said that the working group could not elaborate on the case while the investigation was ongoing.
“[You] just reported the information that was posted on the military police’s Facebook page, and they are continuing to investigate the case,” he said. He declined to comment further. According to the military police’s Facebook page, the joint force had found 77 cut logs and 13 pieces of timber.
Deputy provincial governor Chak Mengheang and provincial hall spokesman Neang Vannak both referred reporters to the court. Provincial military police commander Hem Bonrel could not be reached for comment.
Eng Kimhong, research and advocacy program manager at the Cambodian Youth Network, said that he was disappointed that the armed forces were involved in illegal logging.
“I am saddened when armed forces destroy natural resources, while they have a role to protect Cambodia’s territory and maintain public order,” he said.
Kimhong called on court officials to seriously prosecute the case, and to find other people who were responsible for the logging.
“I believe that there are many people behind that case, and the court should find those people to penalize,” he said. “The corruption which has been committed by officials has seriously affected the deforestation.” (Additional reporting by Ngay Nai)