Phnom Penh Municipal Court has ordered the Interior Ministry to arrest three border police officers and Virachey National Park’s former director for their alleged involvement in a massive illegal logging operation in Ratanakkiri province, officials said Monday.
Investigating Judge Kim Sophorn said he ordered the ministry to take action Friday after former park director Koy Sokha and Border Police Unit 203 Commander Phon Sophat as well as his two deputies, Keo Louna and Lim Say, failed to appear in court de-spite repeated summons.
“Interior police told me that they had run away,” Kim Sophorn said. “That’s why I ordered to have them arrested.”
The judge said he had the ministry make the arrest instead of provincial authorities because the ministry has more power.
A former park ranger, Yim Sath, has already appeared before the court and has been detained. All five men were charged in July with taking bribes, destroying the forest and illegally transporting logs while allegedly helping Vietnamese nationals conduct a massive illegal logging operation in the park.
Muong Khim, director of the ministry’s penal police department, said he had not received Kim Sophorn’s order but said the four would be arrested.
“Whenever we have the warrant, we will start the job,” he said.
Moeung Samoeun, Ratanakkiri’s military police commander, appeared in court Friday while Provincial Governor Kham Khoeun and Provincial Police Chief Yoeung Baloung appeared in court Tuesday to answer questions as to who was at fault for not monitoring the area where the illegal logging occurred, Kim Sophorn said.
The three men told the court they rarely visited the border because of the poor road conditions in the area.
Kham Khoeun and Yoeung Baloung could not be reached for comment.
According to a report from the Ratanakkiri provincial police to National Police Chief Hok Lundy dated July 16, 2004, Vietnamese nationals crossed the Cambodia-Laos border several times earlier that year with border police approval.
The Vietnamese cut trees and transported them back, eventually taking 500 truckloads of trees out of the country, the report states.
The case was originally referred to Ratanakkiri Provincial Court in November but was later moved to Phnom Penh after the provincial court failed to take any action, officials have said.