Company Chairman, Chinese Translator ‘Escaped’ in Illegal Mining Case

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A construction worker stands in front of extensive digging of a mountain called Poy Machov in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nob district on December 1, 2020. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
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Sixteen suspects are in jail and more than seven others are on the run in a series of illegal marble-mining cases in Stung Treng, according to court documents, which say one company’s chairman and a Chinese translator are among those who escaped the military police-led crackdowns.

Provincial prosecutors issued three documents this week detailing the actions against the 21 total suspects, plus an unspecified number of unarrested accomplices, related to illegal marble mining in the province.

The crimes allegedly took place since January in three separate communes, all in Thala Barivat district: Chamkar Loeu, O’Rai and Sam Ang.

Among the suspects placed in pretrial detention, according to the documents, are Ratanakiri military officer Chong Lip Ngeth, 41, and Brigade 70 soldier Khing Kimtha. Brigade 70 is an elite unit formed in 1994 for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s protection, and has been accused of political assassinations and illegal logging.

The other 14 suspects sent to jail are 13 workers, six of whom are listed as Vietnamese; and one farmer.

One case lists Granda International Steel chairman Lim Hong, 41, as a suspect, but says he “escaped.” Chinese national Y Chong, 48; a Chinese translator identified only as Ty; another Chinese man with no further identification; two men identified only as Chuon and Ny; and Ratanakiri provincial police officer Lim Ngeth, 41, also evaded arrest, the documents say.

The provincial court would not comment further on the cases, and national military police spokesman Eng Hy referred questions to the court.

Earlier this week, O’Rai commune chief Hem Savy said military police made the arrests in his commune on Saturday and Sunday and confiscated equipment from a drilling site at a local pond. The workers had been previously warned over their illegal operations, he said. 

Provincial mines department director Nou Sovannara said on Wednesday that Granda had applied for a license in the area but had yet to receive one. The suspects can face up to a year in jail under the Law on Mineral Resources.

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