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Suspects wanted for logging thousands of trees in Mondulkiri

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The trees were buried to hide the evidence from authorities while other trees were burned. Photo supplied

Suspects wanted for logging thousands of trees in Mondulkiri

Mondulkiri provincial authorities are working to identify suspects who cut down tens of thousands of trees and buried them in a 60ha patch of forestland in order to take over the land.

The search came after a joint force confiscated three machines in Pu Leh village, in O’Raing district’s Dak Dam commune.

Provincial Forestry Administration director Um Van Sopheak told The Post police have been looking into the case since last Thursday.

He said local community people had reported to the police about the case. When the operation began, suspects fled into the forest, leaving behind an excavator, a tractor, and two motorbikes seized as evidence.

“We are measuring the trees, counting them, and measuring the land that suspects had cleared. I cannot say clearly how many trees were buried and the size of the land that was cleared. I will wait for official information,” he said.

Dam Dak commune police chief Phong Hiek said on Sunday he participated in the operation, but could not estimate how many trees had been cut down. He said the suspects cut down the trees and buried them in order to hide the evidence from authorities.

He said some of the trees were buried, and some were about to be buried.

“The trees are not luxury timber. They are just trees that were cut and burned. They did not attempt to bring the trees out, but they cleared the forest in order to occupy the land,” Hiek said.

Provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc Eang Mengly said the case needs to be investigated and the suspects arrested. He said there could be collusion given the size of the land that was cleared, but local authorities did not take action on time.

“The situation was only handled when officials from the national level went to the field directly. Only then did we see local authorities take action,” he said.

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