Police Officer To Sue Timber Trader Over Bribe Claim

A police officer in Siem Reap province says he will sue a timber trader who publicly accused him of taking bribes over the past three years to ignore the trader’s illicit deliveries.

The threat stems from an article that appeared on the Koh Santepheap Daily’s website on Wednesday in which a timber trader—identified only as “Thai”—accused Khlauk Soda, an officer for the provincial anti-economic crime police, of seizing his timber on Saturday because he had missed paying a bribe. The trader accused Mr. Soda of taking 200,000 riel, or about $50, every month to let his timber-packed trucks ply the local roads with impunity.

Mr. Soda said he intended to sue the trader for defamation.

“I am now preparing a complaint to file with the court tomorrow to let the court find justice for me,” he said on Wednesday. “That person has been doing his timber business for a long time, but I have never received even 100 riel from him.”

Mr. Soda said he caught the trader on Saturday in Siem Reap City in a pickup truck loaded with about 2.5 cubic meters of unlicensed first-grade Phchoek timber.

Sim Samnang, the reporter who wrote the story, said he interviewed the trader over the phone on Tuesday, and although the trader refused to reveal his full name, his account was similar to many other reports of police seizing timber in frustration over unpaid bribes.

Several calls to a phone number for the trader supplied by Mr. Samnang went unanswered.

Provincial anti-economic crime police chief Soeun Sen said he believed his subordinate’s claims that the bribe allegations were false and would not investigate further.

“This is the normal behavior of timber traders, because they always accuse our police officers of taking bribes whenever we stop their vehicles,” he said.

Accounts of authorities on the take from timber traders are all too common. Reporters and rights groups have often witnessed illegal loggers operating with impunity and authorities across the country taking bribes to look the other way. Legal action against them is rare.

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