S Reap Timber To Be Auctioned; No Sanctions Likely

Siem Reap provincial prosecutor Ty Sovannthal said yesterday he would not prosecute any of the politicians or businessmen on whose properties authorities seized hundreds of cubic meters of wood last month.

However, he said that provincial authorities do plan to auction off the timber. He said he did not know exactly how much wood was seized.

Provincial authorities said last month they had seized more than 500 cubic meters found on the properties of CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin, Tourism Ministry Secretary of State Kor Sumsaroeut, businessman Ang Try and hotel magnate Sok Kong.

Officials disagreed on whether the wood was duly licensed, however, and property owners who could be contacted at the time insisted they had obtained the seized wood legally.

Mr Sovannthal cited Forestry Law provisions allowing for the seizure and auctioning of timber.

“Does it state anything about arrests? I could not arrest anyone,” he said before hanging up on a reporter.

Contacted a second time yesterday, Mr Sovannthal declined to say whether any of the property owners had broken any laws and referred the question to the Forestry Administration.

Newly installed Forestry Administration Director-General Chheang Khim Sun was unavailable for comment yesterday, and spokesman Thun Sarath referred questions to Tim Sitha, the administration’s director of legislation and law enforcement, who declined to comment.

The property raids in Siem Reap were part of a nationwide crackdown on illegal logging that began in mid-March and netted more than 3,000 cubic meters of wood.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, dismissed the crackdown as a government ploy to curry favor with the public and international donors.

“If there is not prosecution, [the crackdown] is just a good-looking scene,” he said. “Prime Minister [Hun Sen] is always talking about the prosecution of criminals, but so far there have been no prosecutions.”


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