A man was fined 15 million riel ($3,750) for using heavy machinery to excavate a state-owned mountain in Preah Vihear province for unauthorised business.
Mine authorities arrived at the site and stopped machine operators from carrying out their work on April 6 in Preah Khlaing commune’s Kraing Doung village in Tbeng Meanchey district.
The man, Say Sophea, was caught at the 1sqm pit with five pieces of excavation equipment according to a letter sent by Department of Mines and Energy director You Chendayuth to provincial governor Prak Sovann. The letter was sighted by The Post on Sunday.
According to the letter, on April 6, a departmental working group and specialists had arrived at the excavation site for inspections.
The excavation of the mountain was to take soil for unauthorised business – an illegal act under the Law on Mineral Resource Management and Exploitation and the amendments to Article 35 of the Law on Mineral Resource Management and Exploitation (2008).
The letter said the department decided that individuals who dig out mines illegally will incur a fine of 15,240,000 riel.
Chendayuth highlighted that any individuals who dig out mines would be fined in cash by the Ministry of Mines and Energy at twice the estimated value of the mineral products they stole.
Mines are dug based on the size of tools, machinery, the production, consumption, and mineral volumes at the location. The ministry can fine them 1,5 million riel a day starting from the day the individuals started the wrongdoing to when the operation ended.
He further said that in the case of repeat offenders, they will be fined double in cash as stipulated Article 8 of the law, or jailed for between one and five years or both, not including compensation for other damages. Machinery used for the offence will be impounded as state property.
Sovann said on Sunday that the case had not ended because specialists are searching for others after questioning the owner of the machinery known only as Chea.
“We can’t end the case yet because we are searching for other people. We just questioned the owner, so there are still other people we need to speak with,” he said.
Preah Vihear provincial Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction director Sam Saroeun could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Provincial military police commander Kang Sao Kun told The Post on Sunday that Chea told police that the land’s owner Say Sophea had hired his tractors to dig the land.
“The landowner’s name is Say Sophea and he is the son of Tbeng Meanchey district governor Nut Sophoan. The landowner hired the tractors to excavate the land.
“The specialists were building a case to be referred to the provincial governor for further legal procedures. But I don’t know how [the governor] will decide,” Sao Kun said.
Sophoan could not be reached for comment on Sunday. But he told The Post on Thursday that he was not involved with the offence and he didn’t have relatives doing the business either.