Authorities in Banteay Meanchey province seized more than $10,000 worth of illegal fertilizer from a government official and his brother on Tuesday, while the accused claimed they were targeted because the official who led the sting had family ties to the fertilizer trade.
The fertilizer, which had been ordered from Thailand and was being stored in a Serei Saophoan City depot owned by provincial planning department official Lim Kong, contained banned herbicides, including the highly-toxic paraquat, said Seng Meng, deputy director of provincial agriculture department.
Mr. Meng said his department had been watching the fertilizer come and go from Mr. Kong’s depot for days.
“After we collected the information, we targeted Mr. Kong because he is a big distributor of illegal fertilizers,” Mr. Meng said, adding that labels on the 127 boxes and 21 bags of confiscated fertilizer showed that they contained paraquat.
“I have educated him several times…but he did not listen to our instructions, and I issued a letter to warn him once, before we took action, but he still continued,” he said.
Although no arrests have been made, Mr. Meng said the case would be forwarded to the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court today, and that he invited Kong Narim, a brother of Mr. Kong who manages the business, for questioning Wednesday.
Mr. Meng said the pair flouted the law on the management of chemical substances and agricultural exploitation, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
While he admitted the presence of paraquat in the fertilizer that was seized, Mr. Narim said there had been an ulterior motive behind the raids.
“Mr. Seng Meng confiscated my fertilizer in order to stop my family’s business because his daughter is also in the same business,” he said.
Mr. Meng countered that because only one of the two business constituted a legal operation, the accusation carried no weight.
“My daughter is a wholesaler and she legally distributes fertilizer,” he said. “We will take action against more people who are in the same illegal business.”