Siem Reap Provincial Court on Thursday sentenced a 55-year-old woman to 18 months in prison for her role in a timber smuggling operation in Oddar Meanchey province, court officials said yesterday.
Duch Savoeun’s sentence for storing illegal timber in her home in Trapaing Prasat district was reduced to 10 months because she had made frequent donations of timber products to local government construction projects, according to the court’s president, Judge Sok Leang.
Ms Savoeun, who had since 2000 run a business making timber products, was arrested in Phnom Penh in late March as an alleged ringleader of an Oddar Meanchey timber smuggling operation. She was later charged with “storing illegal timber.” Ms Savoeun at the time confessed to storing 100 cubic meters of timber at her home.
“We convicted her for storing illegal timber and buying immature trees,” Judge Leang said.
Ms Savoeun’s case was part of a larger government crackdown on illegal logging. In March, Siem Reap officials claimed to have seized hundreds of cubic meters of high-value timber on land owned by government officials and businessmen.
And in early April, Prime Minister Hun Sen sacked then-Forestry Administration director Ty Sokhun, citing his ineffectiveness.
Thun Sarath, spokesman for the Forestry Administration, said yesterday that forestry officers had many other forestry crime suspects on the way to trial, but declined to provide details of the other cases.
“We have some other cases, which already reached the prosecutor’s hands,” Mr Sarath said.
“We are continuing to investigate and search for more crimes…. It’s an ongoing action. We won’t stop,” Mr Sarath said.
Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum, said yesterday that he had not heard much recently about prosecution of forestry crime, and that it was unclear whether the government planned to continue the logging crackdown.
“Our NGO does not know about the government’s future plans to crack down on forestry crime,” he said. “The government must have a distinct plan to continue its campaign in order to guarantee the sustainable usage of our forests.”