More M’kiri of­fi­cials scru­ti­nised over al­leged ties to tim­ber trade

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Soth Koem­soeun

MONDULKIRI author­i­ties are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the po­ten­tial in­volve­ment of a po­lice­man and sol­dier in smug­gling tim­ber to Viet­nam, the lat­est of sev­eral sim­i­lar al­le­ga­tions in­volv­ing of­fi­cials to sur­face in the bor­der prov­ince.

The new al­le­ga­tions con­cern the act­ing po­lice chief of the Kbal Dom­rei bor­der post, Mun Phiny, and Keo Sopheak, com­man­der of Pla­toon 1, which is sta­tioned nearby in Koh Nhek dis­trict’s Sre Huy com­mune.

Mondulkiri Pro­vin­cial En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment Di­rec­tor Keo Sopheak said sus­pi­cions had arisen about whether Viet­namese log­gers had been al­lowed to utilise the bor­der post as a smug­gling cor­ri­dor fol­low­ing the seizure of 15 logs in the nearby Sre Pok Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary.

He said the 15 logs ap­peared to be part of a larger haul, two truck­loads of which had al­ready re­turned to Viet­nam via the cross­ing. “Both the po­lice­man and the sol­dier have been sus­pended from their work­place, and more mis­takes might be dis­cov­ered while the court is work­ing on this case,” he said.

Mondulkiri Pro­vin­cial Gover­nor Svay Sam Eang said he had or­dered the pair’s com­man­ders to in­ves­ti­gate the case and to fur­ther probe whether more of­fi­cers sta­tioned along the bor­der are in­volved in tim­ber trad­ing. “If the in­ves­ti­ga­tion shows they com­mit­ted a mis­take, we will pun­ish them based on the law and their unit’s reg­u­la­tions,” he said.

Pro­vin­cial Po­lice Chief Ouk Sam­nang said he had in­ter­ro­gated the sus­pects. He said Phiny, the bor­der po­lice­man, ap­peared to have col­luded to al­low log­gers ac­cess to the cross­ing, and vowed to take “ac­tion”.

Phiny and Pla­toon 1 Com­man­der Sopheak, how­ever, have not been ar­rested. Both were un­reach­able yes­ter­day.

The new case fol­lows a high­level in­ves­ti­ga­tion started ear­lier this year into sev­eral high­rank­ing Mondulkiri of­fi­cials ac­cused of pock­et­ing huge bribes from a tim­ber trader.

That case is await­ing a hear­ing at Phnom Penh Mu­nic­i­pal Court, but at least one of the higher-rank­ing sus­pects, a pro­vin­cial mil­i­tary com­man­der, has been ex­cused af­ter re­ceiv­ing “ed­u­ca­tion” about his “mis­takes”.

Sev­eral oth­ers have sim­ply been trans­ferred.

Mean­while, in a sep­a­rate case yes­ter­day, rangers in Bat­tam­bang prov­ince’s Sam­lot dis­trict seized a car car­ry­ing il­le­gal rose­wood tim­ber on its way to a meet­ing with traders in nearby Pailin prov­ince. The driver, how­ever, later es­caped.

Bat­tam­bang Pro­vin­cial En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment Deputy Di­rec­tor Em Vichet said of­fi­cials would use the ve­hi­cle’s reg­is­tra­tion plates to track the sus­pect.

SUP­PLIED

Of­fi­cials seize a car loaded with lux­ury tim­ber yes­ter­day on its way to Pailin from the Sam­lot pro­tected area.

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