Oknha Arrested; 40 Trucks Set to Be Blown Up

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Soeng Sam Ol (Fresh News)
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The National Anti-Deforestation Committee said today that it had arrested alleged timber-smuggling tycoon Soeng Sam Ol in Mondulkiri province and confiscated more than 40 of his trucks to be destroyed, mostly by “blowing them up in the jungle.”

A day after pledging a tougher crackdown against the illicit timber trade, committee spokesman Eng Hy told VOD that the military police had brought in Sam Ol and three of his staff for questioning at the provincial military police headquarters.

The committee’s officers had also found more than 40 trucks, including some that were hidden in the jungle, Brig. Gen. Hy said.

“The hidden trucks in the jungle we can’t get out because we have no drivers, so we have to destroy them by blowing them up in the jungle,” he said.

“For other trucks that we can get out, we will … cut them up into pieces to destroy them and not make them usable again.”

He would not say how much wood had been confiscated.

Sam Ol was also one of the first timber traders arrested during the government’s last push to crack down on illegal logging, in 2016 — just around the time it created Hy’s Anti-Deforestation Committee.

Then, Sam Ol was accused of cutting down trees in the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary while making it appear to have been cut in a nearby rubber plantation, in order to launder the illegal timber and sell it abroad.

After dodging court summonses for two months in 2017, Sam Ol finally appeared at the Mondulkiri Provincial Court in December that year, according to media reports. He denied in court that he was connected to 20,000 cubic meters of confiscated illegal timber. It was not immediately clear whether the court ever reached a verdict.

Sam Ol has been bestowed with the title of oknha, an honorific reserved for those who donate at least $100,000 to the state.

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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