Five forestry officials in Kompong Thom province were suspended last week for allegedly turning a blind eye to the processing of hundreds of cubic meters of wood, forestry officials said.
Thun Sarath, spokesman for the Forestry Administration, said yesterday that the five officers have been transferred from their district offices to the local forestry inspectorate office as an “administrative punishment.” He declined to discuss any possible legal action against the men.
“Their case files have been submitted to the legislation department,” said Mr Sarath, adding that investigators are still looking into the allegations that the five men allowed an unknown company to process more than 600 cubic meters of first grade timber and hide it in Sandan district.
Although Mr Sarath said he was unsure which officials had been suspended, two provincial forestry officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media, identified them last week as Khun Bun Heng, chief of the Sandan district forestry division, and his deputy, Chhenh Seng, along with Heng Samich, chief of a Tomring commune triage, Chey Sitha, chief of a triage in Sandan district and forestry officer Mou Saran.
The two officials said the company that processed the logs was based in Phnom Penh but that they were not sure of its name.
When contacted on Friday, Sim Lapaing, chief of the Kompong Thom province cantonment, declined to comment. His deputy, Ith Phoumara, confirmed the suspensions but emphasized that the officers had not been fired.
“There is no removal,” he said. “They still hold the same position. They are not at my office but I am not clear where they are.”
In mid-December, Mr Bun Heng was recalled to work in the provincial capital as an administrative punishment for loaning an impounded logging truck to Ratanak Cam rubber company, which has been granted a large land concession in Tomring commune.
A few months later, Mr Bun Heng was reinstated to his position. He was unavailable yesterday.