The IIC University of Technology in Phnom Penh on Monday convened an ad hoc committee to consider awarding an honorary doctorate to businessman Try Pheap, who in recent years has been the target of more reports of illegal logging than any other timber trader in the country.
“I only know that IIC University held a meeting on Monday to evaluate awarding an honorary doctorate to Oknha Try Pheap, but I don’t know the details,” the school’s director of education, Ork Sovannaroath, said on Tuesday.
Mr. Sovannaroath said he was on the committee but referred further questions to chairman and university rector Chhuon Chanthan, who could not be reached.
Representatives of Mr. Pheap’s eponymous conglomerate, the Try Pheap Group, could not be reached either.
Mr. Pheap has risen to prominence as the country’s premier timber trader, with rubber plantations and lumber yards across the country.
Two separate NGO investigations, however, have found loggers using Mr. Pheap’s properties to launder vast quantities of illegally sourced timber.
His company denies any involvement.
A photograph of Monday’s meeting shows a banner identifying Mr. Pheap as a personal adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
In 2013, the prime minister’s cabinet ordered government agencies to give Mr. Pheap first rights to purchase seized timber, even though the law requires such wood to be sold at public auction.