Three staff members from the Ministry of Agriculture were arrested before dawn on Thursday for allegedly setting up an illegal checkpoint on National Road 5 in Kandal province to collect bribes from truck drivers, said Tim Savuth, Punhea Leur district police chief.
Sar Siriboth, Hun Sarath and Kan Kunthea, employees of the animal health and production de-partment, were caught allegedly extorting money at 3 am in Vihear Luong commune from the driver of a cattle truck that originated in Battambang province and was making its way to Phnom Penh, Mr Savuth said yesterday.
“We arrested them during our routine safety patrol after we caught them barricading the road in order to stop the trucks and take money from them,” he said. “They have been doing this for a long time and almost always late at night.”
The three men have been sent to the Kandal provincial police office for further questioning. They had a work order to monitor the movement of live animals into Phnom Penh, to either slaughterhouses or farms and ranches, Mr Savuth said, adding that the men’s assignment was signed off on by Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun on Thursday.
Mr Savuth said that despite having the order, the men’s actions were for their personal gain and not in the interest of the country. He declined to say if the three officials would be charged.
Mr Savuth added that the ar-rests were made after Prime Minister Hun Sen last week publicly urged officials to crack down on illegal checkpoints set up by government officials for personal gain, and to stop overloaded or heavy container trucks. Mr Hun Sen said military officials and some of his own bodyguards use military trucks, which are not subject to checkpoints, to illegally transport luxury wood, and that the practice must end.
Mr Sarun could not be reached for comment yesterday and Kao Phal, director of the animal health and production department, de-clined yesterday to discuss the arrest of his employees.