Ex-Military Police Chief’s Sentence Reduced

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday cut nine years from the 15-year prison sentence of the former military police chief of Ratanakkiri province who in 2006 was convicted in absentia of being involved in a multimillion dollar illegal logging racket in the province’s Virachey National Park.

The Appeal Court’s decision to reduce the sentence against Moeung Samoeun, who remains at large, followed an order by the Supreme Court to review the initial sentence taking into consideration Article 137 of the criminal code, which allows the court to consolidate penalties for concurrent crimes.

“Moeung Samoeun’s sentence is changed from 15 years in prison to six years in prison for receiving bribes,” presiding Judge Nguon Im told the court, explaining that the sentences relating to two other crimes would be consolidated into the bribery conviction, which carries the harshest penalty.

Along with receiving bribes in relation to the deforestation of Virachey National Park, Mr. Samoeun was also convicted of destruction of the environment and falsifying police reports.

Chou Chanthyra, Mr. Samoeun’s lawyer, said that the Court of Appeal’s decision was still unjust.

The former military police chief was among 14 provincial officials who were found to be part of an illegal logging network in which senior authorities accepted bribes in exchange for allowing Vietnamese timber companies to log luxury wood in the park.

Among the officials who received lengthy prison sentences for their role in the operation was former Ratanakkiri provincial governor Kham Khoeun, former provincial police chief Yoeung Baloung, former Virachey National Park director Koy Sokha, former border police chief Phon Sophat and several senior Forestry Administration officials.

Most of the convicted officials remain at large and have not served a day in prison for their crimes.

The expansive illegal logging operation was uncovered in 2004 by a monitoring flight by the World Bank, which had provided almost $5 million in grants and credit toward a government program designed to protect the 332,500-hectare park.

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