Feud With Wildlife Official Cited As Source of Logging Allegations

Kompong Speu Provincial Chief Prosecutor Kong Set, who was re­cently the subject of a Justice Mini­s­try corruption investigation, denied any wrongdoing Tuesday, blaming a feud with a Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary official as the source of the allegations against him.

The sanctuary’s Deputy Director Chhun Cheaheng had lodged complaints accusing the prosecutor of illegal logging and extortion, prompt­ing a Justice Ministry inspection Dec 3, Kong Set said. But the prosecutor claimed that the complaints were actually motivated by his refusal to drop a robbery lawsuit against Chhun Cheaheng and his subordinates.

Kong Set said that he had re­ceived a complaint accusing Chhun Cheaheng and his rangers of stealing four motorbikes, $400 and four cell phones from people the rangers alleged were illegal loggers.

“[Chhun Cheaheng] came to my place and said to me, ‘Don’t work on this case,’” Kong Set claimed, adding that he refused to agree to the alleged demand.

“When he left, [Chhun Chea­heng] filed the complaints accusing me of protecting villagers at Aural who cut down the trees, and of taking their money,” he said.

“The Forestry officials said that I didn’t protect the forests and had asked them five times to allow the transporting of timber,” Kong Set said of the complaint against him. “And they said I created anarchy and allowed villagers to cut down trees inside the forests.”

Kong Set denied being involved in the transportation of illegal logs, adding that if he did, he would have already been arrested because checkpoints were intended to re­strict such crimes.

Kong Set also accused Chhun Cheaheng of having bribed officials to conduct the Justice Ministry in­vestigations on him.

“He has money and just walked around to bribe people, causing rain and thunder,” Kong Set said. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said, adding that Chhun Cheaheng was the one who cut down the trees.

A woman answering Chhun Cheaheng’s phone said that he was unavailable to speak with a reporter Tuesday, and Environment Mini­s­try Secretary of State Yin Kimsean said his ministry had not heard of the allegations, adding that he would investigate.

Aural district penal police chief Suong Prum said Chhun Cheaheng was a good man, and that forestry crimes inside the Phnom Aural sanc­tuary were on a small scale.

Justice Minister Ang Vong Va­thana said he had already submitted the report of the investigation on Kong Set to the Supreme Council of Magistracy’s seven-member Discip­linary Council to make a decision regarding the prosecutor.

Ang Vong Vathana added that it would be “crazy” for Kong Set to say that the Justice Ministry had accepted bribes to carry out the investigation against him.

The complaint from Phnom Au­ral officials was not the only reason for the probe, he said, as there were also accusations filed regarding gaso­line vendors.

“Wait to talk to the Disciplinary Council,” the minister said of Kong Set’s future prospects.

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