Military Official, Three Others Charged Over Illegal Logging

A military official and three businessmen involved with a company in Preah Vihear province were charged on Thursday over their alleged involvement in logging illegally on the site of a world heritage-listed, 11th century temple, authorities said.

A raid on the premises of Hong Sopheap Development—carried out by hundreds of military police officials and local authorities on Sunday—found the firm had been in possession of illegally logged timber, officials said on Monday. More than 500 cubic meters of wood was seized.

Say Sopheap, 51, and Bun Hong, 52, co-presidents of the company; Say Sina, 45, a company foreman; and Khai Hoeu, 45, an officer in the military’s Division 3, were charged on Thursday by provincial court officials, said prosecutor Ly Lun, but he refused to name the specific offenses for which they were charged.

“The court sent them to provisional detention and charged them over their involvement with forestry crimes” under Article 98 of the Forestry Law, Mr. Lun said, declining to comment further.

Article 98 lists 15 offenses, including the use of machinery to harvest wood without a permit, all punishable by one to five years in prison and a fine of 10 million to 100 million riel, or about $2,500 to $25,000.

Investigators concluded that 54 of the 186 logs seized had been felled within the boundaries of the firm’s land concession, which covers thousands of hectares granted to the military as a land concession, according to a statement posted to the military police’s Facebook page on Thursday.

Another 90 had been illegally logged from protected grounds surrounding Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border, while an additional 42 smaller-sized logs and tools had also been confiscated by authorities, the statement said.

Preah Vihear governor Un Chanda said he had reported the company’s illegal activities to the military police task force charged with cracking down on forestry crimes.

“They logged illegally because they went to log inside the protected area surrounding Preah Vihear Temple,” he said.

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