Military Police Officer Freed Despite Obstruction Charge

A military police major placed in provisional detention last month for obstructing authorities who were trying to arrest timber smugglers has returned to work, with military and court officials offering no explanation for his release.

Seng Bunteng was driving a Lexus 470 SUV that blocked forestry officers from pursuing two Toyota Camrys suspected of transporting illegally logged rosewood on August 9 in Siem Reap province’s Prasat Bakorng district, said Tea Kimsoth, chief of the local forestry administration cantonment.

Investigating Judge Sam Bunpoeu charged Mr. Bunteng the following day with the obstruction of a public official, and the SUV was impounded at the cantonment, he said. Mr. Kimsoth said he was aware of Mr. Bunteng’s release, but did not dare criticize the decision.

“I’m not disappointed about the release because this is the court’s decision,” Mr. Kimsoth said. “I can’t give you answers about the case because the court will be angry at me. They’ll file a complaint against me if my answer causes any scandal in the court.”

Judge Bunpoeu refused to comment on the reasons for Mr. Bunteng’s release.

Eng Hy, a spokesman for the national military police, said that Mr. Bunteng was terminated from his job after his arrest in Siem Reap.

“We deleted his name from the military police because he committed a forestry crime,” he said.

However, Hang Thol, the provincial military police commander in Kompong Thom, where Mr. Bunteng was stationed, said the major had returned to work about two weeks ago, after being released from prison on October 4.

“Seng Bunteng is still working at the provincial military police because I have not seen an official letter from the upper levels to terminate his job,” Brigadier General Thol said, adding that he did not know the reason for the release.

Mr. Bunteng could not be reached for comment.

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