A Forestry Administration official in Kompong Thom province said yesterday he had been transferred from his position after loaning a confiscated logging truck to a company clearing trees from an economic land concession.
However, Khun Bun Heng, chief of the forestry division in Sandan district, said that after the Ratanak Cam company made a written request to borrow the impounded truck, the loan had occurred with the authorization of his immediate superior, Tim Lapaing, chief of the provincial forestry cantonment.
Mr Bun Heng said that since mid-December, he has been recalled to work at the provincial capital with Kong Narin, chief of the Forestry Administration’s North Tonle Sap Lake inspectorate.
“A rubber plantation company in Tomring borrowed the truck with a written request to transport logs when they cleared their concession land,” Mr Bun Heng said of his decision to loan the truck. “I have no right to lend it but the chief of the forestry cantonment has the power to permit this. My boss wants me to explain to him this written request.”
Mr Bun Heng said Mr Lapaing should have reported the loan to Mr Narin. He declined to discuss whether the Ratanak Cam company is permitted to cut down trees in the concession area. Mr Lapaing declined to comment when reached by telephone yesterday, while Mr Narin could not be reached. Mr Lapaing’s deputy, Tib Yata, confirmed that Mr Narin had ordered Mr Bun Heng’s temporary transfer but said he could provide no further details.
In a report banned in 2007, environmental campaigners Global Witness said the Tomring Rubber Plantation was the scene of large-scale illegal logging operated by both the military and relatives of senior government officials. The government strongly denied the charges.
According to Mr Bun Heng, the truck was confiscated in 2007 from a company allegedly involved in illegal logging in Sandan district.
He identified the owner of Ratanak Cam, which borrowed the truck, as businessman Mak Kim Hong, also owner of the Chub Rubber Plantation in Kompong Cham province.
Mr Kim Hong said yesterday he could not discuss the matter of the borrowed truck as he was too busy.