Military police to probe timber bribery

Source: Phnom Penh Post | Mon, 6 June 2016, by  and

sao_sokha_visit_logging_warehouse_in_tbong_khmum_10_01_2016_supplied

A delegation lead by Sao Sokha visits a logging warehouse in Tbong Khmum earlier this year to inspect illegal lumber. Photo supplied

The military police has announced an expansive internal investigation following media reports of widespread bribery of its officers by timber transporters along with videos posted online of military police officers taking cash.

Military police spokesman Eng Hy said investigators would visit provinces along the Vietnam border as well as Kampong Speu and Pursat, where local media reports said officers were personally involved in illegal luxury timber smuggling to Vietnam.

“Those individuals found illegally performing their role will face punishment by the disciplinary councillors,” said Hy in an interivew yesterday. “We cannot provide exact information … because we have to wait for our inspectors to collect accurate information.”

He refused to answer further questions.

The Post last week reported on endemic corruption among authorities meant to be curbing illegal logging in Kratie, Tbong Khmum and Mondulkiri. Timber transporters reported having to pay up to a dozen bribes per trip to police, military police and Forestry Administration officials whether their load was illegal or not.

Meanwhile, larger trucks were allowed to go unmolested, according to community members. Villagers interviewed last week said yesterday that following the Post’s article authorities had blocked access to forest areas where they cut or gathered timber. They also reported fewer police chases involving civilians who refused to pay bribes.

Pursat military police chief Kheng Tito denied allegations his officers were involved in illegally transporting wood.

“I believe that individual officers dare not perform illegal activity since national commander Sao Sokha was recruited to fight illegal logging,” he said. “I think the reports were exaggerations.”

Transparency International Cambodia director Preap Kol said that the internal investigation was long overdue, as Kingdom-wide corruption had become “normal”.

“It seems that this case is quite normal in many instances,” Kol said of one leaked video showing an officer taking a bribe. “This one was just recorded and posted on social media.”

Meanwhile, conservation activists who gathered to celebrate Environment Day in Phnom Penh yesterday blasted the government for failing Cambodia’s forests.

“Despite orders from the prime minister to crack down on those oknhas, those oknhas remain influential as usual, and no one has been punished yet. No wealth has been seized,” said Ouch Leng, an award-winning environmental activist and director of Cambodian Human Rights Task Force.

 

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