Kompong Chhnang Police Find List of 49 Officials, Suspect Extortion

When police in Kompong Chhnang province last week stopped a truck suspected of transporting illegally logged wood, they found something in the vehicle they did not expect: a list containing the names and phone numbers of 49 police and forestry officials.

Chin Sophat, chief of the provincial economic crime police, said his officers pulled over the truck on National Road 5 on January 26. The vehicle was carrying two tables, six doors and a bed frame, all made out of luxury-grade thnong, along with five pieces of the m’reas prov tree, from which safrole oil—a precursor to the drug Ecstasy—is extracted, he said.

Mr. Sophat said his officers then discovered a list with the names of 49 police, military police and Forestry Administration officials from Kompong Chhnang and surrounding provinces. Next to each name was a phone number, he said.

Mr. Sophat said his officers told him the list likely indicated officials the driver would have to pay off while transporting his illicit cargo. But when he asked his subordinates to produce the list, he said, they all claimed not to know where it had gone.

“I didn’t see the list of 49 officials with my eyes,” he said. “I asked my officials for the list, but they didn’t give it to me. They told me they didn’t know where it was.”

Deputy provincial police chief Ly Virak said he was also aware of the list, but had only seen it after local media published it online. He said he recognized at least one name on the list, that of a Kompong Tralach division Forestry Administration official, but declined to give the man’s name.

Mr. Virak added that he had heard that the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) was planning to investigate all 49 officials.

“I heard the ACU will open an investigation into the case, but I don’t know when,” he said.

ACU officials could not be reached Sunday.

When a reporter called one of the numbers on the list, next to the name “Bong Thy,” a man answered and said he worked for the Forestry Administration in Kompong Speu province’s Odong district.

The man would not give his name, but said he was likely on the list because he had recently purchased a $700 wooden bed frame from Pursat province’s Phnom Kravanh district.

“I want to deny that I took money from the wood dealer,” he said. “But economic police and military police officials did.”

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