4 Officials To Be Arrested for Alleged Logging in

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.

 

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