Authorities say they are investigating a firm given permission to log thousands of hectares of land belonging to the military in Preah Vihear province after a raid on Sunday uncovered illegally logged timber.
Brigadier General Eng Hy, a national military police spokesman, said more than 200 military police officers and local authorities seized 500 cubic meters of wood in the raid in Choam Ksan district.
Brig. Gen. Hy said the company—identified by other officials as Hong Sopheap Development—had been found to possess illegally logged timber, though he declined to explain what was illicit about the wood.
“We are questioning the owner of the company and the people who are involved with this case,” Brig. Gen. Hy said.
Duong Samneang, commander of the military’s Intervention Brigade 7, which controls the land, said the firm had permission to log more than 4,000 hectares within Sra Em commune, but declined to comment further.
Provincial governor Un Chanda said the company appeared to have a license to process timber, granted by the Agriculture Ministry last year. “Relevant forces are investigating, so we cannot share details,” he said.
Companies with land concessions or licenses to clear land for agricultural developments are regularly accused of logging outside their boundaries.
Ang Cheatlom, executive director of the NGO Ponlok Khmer, which works with ethnic minorities to protect their land rights, said the company had been logging in the area for some time.
“I saw the company cutting down logs around that area since before they had a license from the Agriculture Ministry,” he said.
The Hong Sopheap company is chaired by Say Sopheap, according to Global Witness’ database of Cambodian companies. However, calls to the listed company telephone number went unanswered.
Yun Kea, the provincial military police commander, and Ith Phoumra, chief of the Preah Vihear Forestry Administration cantonment, declined to comment.
sovuthy@cambodiadaily.com
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