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Forestry official fires back over graft claim

Chanthet Thanarak, chief of the Phnom Penh Forestry Administration, attends a meeting at his office in October. Photo supplied
Chanthet Thanarak, chief of the Phnom Penh Forestry Administration, attends a meeting at his office in October. Photo supplied

Forestry official fires back over graft claim

An allegation of dubious promotion practices within the Forestry Administration has surfaced during the course of an Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) investigation into Phnom Penh Forestry Administration chief Chanthet Thanarak.

Thanarak stands accused of keeping department-wide salary bonuses for himself, demanding fees from timber traders 25 times higher than the required rate, protecting illegal timber traders and handing himself absolute power within the capital’s Forestry Administration office.

In a clarification letter to the ACU dated August 31 and released last week, Chanthet denied all four charges, lashing out at three of his subordinates who he says are unqualified for their positions, which they allegedly leapfrogged to from the bottom of the provincial Forestry Administration.

Two of the three – Seng Ly, from Koh Kong, and Un Vannarith, from Kandal – could not be reached yesterday. The third – Kam Seyha of Svay Rieng, who Chanthet says was promoted twice in 30 days – said he was unaware of the accusation before hanging up.

Om Makthakry – provincial chief of the Koh Kong Forestry Administration, from which Seng Ly was promoted – suggested yesterday that the promotion was at the behest of Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon.

“How can I know? Only the minister knows,” Makthakry said, before hanging up Agriculture Ministry spokesman Lor Raksmey could not be reached for comment.

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