Military cop in logging probe

Source: Phnom Penh Post

Authorities seize illegal timber that allegedly belonged to a deputy military police chief, on Saturday in Kampong Speu province. Photo supplied

Military police on Saturday launched an investigation into one of their own, raiding the Kampong Speu province home of a deputy district gendarmerie chief accused of trafficking timber, whose whereabouts yesterday remained unknown.

According to provincial governor Vei Samnang, officers from the national and provincial gendarmes were led to the home of Oral district deputy gendarmerie chief lieutenant colonel Chheng Long after arresting and questioning the driver of a truck carrying luxury wood seized nearby in Chbar Mon City’s Kandorl Dom commune on Saturday afternoon.

The driver, Yoem Sophearum, 32, was detained and his truck confiscated, while gendarmes were dispatched to Long’s house, which they surrounded by 8pm together with Forestry Administration officers, Samnang said.

“At about 7am, authorities [yesterday] started to inspect his house, but so far we have not gotten the results as they are still working on it,” he said, adding officers had discovered “some wood” and “old machines”, though the haul had yet to be tallied.

“Details of how many cubic metres of wood there are have not been received yet,” he said.

A report on the National Police website stated that four trucks and an excavator were seized. Samnang said Long had “run away,” and was unable to provide further details about his whereabouts.

Speaking yesterday, a commune official, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid potential repercussions, said Long’s property housed a warehouse full of luxury wood.

“When military police searched his house, he was not there,” he said. “He has been doing this business since 2002. The trucks transport the wood at night time. No authorities have wanted to bother [stopping it] because he was powerful and had his network to operate his business.”

Alleging officials were paid-off, Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, said Long’s timber business had been running since at least 2016 without interruption from authorities.

He said the wood was sourced from Koh Kong and Pursat provinces and kept in three warehouses, adding the family owned a house worth between $300,000 and $400,000 and also operated three gas stations.

Meanwhile, in Pursat province on Friday, provincial military police and Forestry Administration officers arrested a 41-year old woman named Heng Phally after they seized a truck illegally transporting 70 pieces of luxury wood hidden under cassava, corn and soybeans in Veal Veng district.

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