Former Governor Denies Dragon’s Tail Charge

Ratanakkiri’s former provincial governor Kham Khoeun has de­nied any involvement in the Dra­gon’s Tail illegal logging operation, his lawyer said on Friday—two days after a court handed down prison sentences for 11 police and forestry officials found guilty for their role in the scandal.

Lawyer Put Theavy would not reveal the whereabouts of Kham Khoeun—who has been missing for several months and is thought to be living with relatives in Laos—but confirmed that the was in a foreign country receiving medical treatment for an unknown ailment.

“I talked with him on the phone last week. He told me that he had nothing to do with this logging case,” Put Theavy said.

Though Kham Khoeun and fellow defendants Yoeung Baloung, Ratanakkiri’s former provincial police chief, and RCAF sub-region commander Moeung Samoeun were originally charged with the 11 police and forestry officials, their trial has been rescheduled.

Put Theavy said no date has yet been set for his client’s trial.

Former Virachey National Park ranger Yim Sath, and local Ratanakkiri police officers Proek Kateap, Nhay Lumbak and In Ratha were sentenced to five years each in prison by Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Ke Sokhan on Wednesday.

Seven other officials, who are still at large, were sentenced in absentia. Former Virachey National Park director Khoy Sokha, former border police chief Phon Sophat and his two deputies, Liam Say and Keo Louna, were each sentenced to seven years in jail. Border police post officers Sen Bunthoeun, Ploeng Thanh and Trim Bun were each sentenced to six years.

Deputy Prosecutor Ngeth Sa­rath, who prosecuted the 11 suspects on Wednesday, said that the trial of Kham Khoeun, Yoeung Baloung and Moeung Samoeun has been made a separate case by Court Director Chiv Keng..

“This case is so complicated,” Ngeth Sarath said. “It will take a long time.”

Environment Ministry Secretary of State Yin Kim Sean said that the government would not allow suspects to escape justice and that both Kham Khoeun and Moeung Samoeun should be held in pre-trial detention similar to Yoeung Ba­loung.

“He is not sick,” Yin Kim Sean said of Kham Khoeun. “He just escaped to another country. We are working to find his whereabouts.”


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