A Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge investigating three border police officers and two former Virachey National Park employees implicated in a massive illegal logging operation visited the Ratanakkiri province protected area to collect evidence Wednesday, officials said.
Municipal Court Investigating Judge Kim Sophorn said there were hundreds of felled logs lying around the site, which is located in the territory otherwise known as the Dragon’s Tail.
“We saw a red dirt road that was built to transport the trees to Vietnam through Laos and we also saw the shelters where they stored the logs,” the judge said by telephone Wednesday night.
Phon Sophat, commander of Border Police Unit 203, and his deputy commanders, Keo Louna and Lim Say, were charged in July with taking bribes, destroying the forest and illegal transportation of logs for allegedly helping Vietnamese nationals log illegally in the park.
Also charged were Koy Sokha, former director of Virachey National Park, and former park ranger Yim Sath.
Kim Sophorn said he has summoned the five accused and numerous additional witnesses to court, though only Yim Sath has appeared and is being detained.
Police have said they do not know the whereabouts of the other suspects.
The case was originally referred to Ratanakkiri Provincial Court in November but moved to Phnom Penh after the provincial court failed to take action, officials have said.
Norng Sok, deputy director of Ratanakkiri Provincial Court, said the court did not act because the logging operation involved high-ranking officials.
“Even though the court is independent, we don’t have power,” he said.
Provincial Governor Kham Khoeun could not be reached for comment.
According to a report from the Ratanakkiri provincial police to National Police Chief Hok Lundy dated July 16, 2004, Vietnamese nationals crossed the Cambodia-Laos border several times earlier that year with border police approval.
The Vietnamese cut trees and transported them back, eventually taking 500 truckloads of trees out of the country, the report states.