Local rights group Adhoc filed a complaint with the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court on Wednesday accusing a police major and an RCAF soldier of clearing more than 300 hectares of forest in Lumphat district, officials said Thursday.
According to Adhoc provincial coordinator Pen Bonnar, RCAF soldier Khim Khengchou and provincial deputy police chief of staff Em Aun have been clearing forest in Lumphat since 2003, and built a warehouse in Batang commune to store the wood.
“We also took several photos of Em Aun directing workers…in the jungle, with a big pile of illegal timber all around him,” Pen Bonnar said. “He was preparing to load the timber into his truck.”
Khim Khengchou directed the luxury timber operation, always wearing his RCAF uniform, community representative Yang Than said.
“These activities, cutting luxury trees to make timber, have gotten worse since September,” he said. “Urgent intervention is needed to protect the national forest for national and community interests.”
Reached by phone Thursday, Em Aun dismissed the allegations, saying he had merely bought a small area of forest for his house, which is under construction, he said.
“I was on my way to purchase soybeans from some farmers, and I stopped when I saw workers producing lumber because I needed some to use for my house’s railing,” he said.
He added that he has never had a business relationship with Khim Khengchou.
“Such allegations have damaged my reputation and honor,” Em Aun said. “I am a policeman who understands forest crime and the judicial system clearly. I would not commit any crimes affecting my duty and honor,” he said adding that he is considering filing a complaint against Adhoc for defamation.
Khim Khengchou could not be reached for comment.
Provincial court Prosecutor Mey Sokhan confirmed that the court has accepted the complaint and would act on the case soon.
“There are plenty of complaints about deforestation crimes and we are trying to resolve them all,” he said.