Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Military police to probe timber bribery

Military police to probe timber bribery

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

Military police to probe timber bribery

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.

Additional reporting by Phak Seangly and Mech Dara

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • PM heads to Washington for ASEAN-US special summit

    Regional and international issues and how to bring the ASEAN-US partnership to another level will be discussed at length as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ministers arrive in Washington, DC, for a special summit on May 12-13. During the trip, Hun Sen and ASEAN

  • National Assembly refutes EU resolution

    The National Assembly (NA) has hit back at a European Parliament resolution condemning the political and human rights situation in Cambodia, calling it another display of the Parliament’s “double standards”. Key points of the resolution include a warning that the Parliament could exclude the

  • Soaring global fuel prices: an opportunity for Cambodia?

    Cambodia is feeling the squeeze from the soaring global coal and oil prices. Electricity du Cambodge (EDC)would certainly be hurting from this reality, and most likely re-assessing its plans to add more coal power stations. EDC buys half of Cambodia’s electricity from plants

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when