Phnom Penh municipal court has denied the requests of a group of CPP parliamentarians to release at least 10 Mondolkiri provincial officials implicated in a logging scandal, officials said Monday.
Court deputy prosecutor Ngeth Sarath said the proposal was denied “because it is a criminal case relating to destruction of state property.”
Five senators and National Assembly members—Bou Thong, Suey Keo, Beuy Keuk, Rath Sarem and Van Vuth—sent a letter to the court April 24, asking that the officials be released temporarily to return to Mondolkiri.
National Assembly member Van Vuth said Monday the signatories wanted the officials released on the guarantee that they would return to prison if they are found guilty. He guaranteed they would return when summoned.
“The hill tribe officials don’t know how to connive such a big scam like that,” Van Vuth said. “They could have been a little involved in the case, but not masterminds or big conspirators.”
The officials remain in Prey Sar prison. They are charged with the destruction of state property stemming from revelations that at least 400 truckloads of logs from Mondolkiri were shipped across the border to Vietnam late last year.
Then-provincial governor Chhaom Bun Khan and his deputy were sacked as a result of the scandal. No charges were levied against them, however, because there was not enough evidence, according to Kim Chea Sophoan, deputy director general of the inspection department of the Ministry of Parliamentarian Relations and Inspection.
His ministry also received a similar request from the parliamentarians to release the other officials, he said.
“In fact, we wanted [the officials] to be release on a guarantee,” he said. “But it is under the jurisdiction of the courts.”
He said he had sent a letter to two Vietnam companies implicated in the illegal logging, asking them whether they still owed money to the government for the logs. If so, he said, “they have to pay.”