Mondulkiri governor repudiates brutality, graft complaint

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A joint operation cracks down on forest crimes on July 22. Facebook

Keo Seima district authorities are searching for people associated with timber trader Chheang Taistrin, a resident of the district who compiled 230 thumbprints to file a complaint to the Mondulkiri Provincial Court requesting the removal of district deputy governor Hoeun Sokna for allegedly attempting to murder citizens illegally moving timber.

Sokna said the search is focused on Sre Khtum commune’s Lapake village.

He said the complaint was filed because of a joint operation he led to crack down on forest crimes on July 22. Authorities seized a car which was being used to transport three pieces of timber and 34 planks from Taistrin’s house.

Sokna said Taistrin fabricated a story to collect thumbprints from 230 people who weren’t informed about the situation.

He said: “I assigned the district and commune administrations to ask people who registered thumbprints why they wanted to remove me [from office].

“They answered that they registered the thumbprints to ask for a social security card to help Chheang Taistrin’s family. Her child is being treated at a hospital and she lacks money,” he said.

Sokna told The Post that Taistrin didn’t tell residents why she needed their thumbprints.

“People answered that they didn’t think she took their thumbprints for such a thing [requesting removal of Sokna] because she got them to register the thumbprints but she didn’t tell them about the reason.

“I still don’t know how the court will take action because the top level has measures to search for people relevant to the thumbprints,” the deputy governor said.

Sre Khtum commune chief Pheng Savuon said several people who had provided thumbprints and were interviewed told police they submitted their thumbprints because Taistrin needed a social security card to help care for her son in the hospital.

Receiving a social security card would ensure that Taistrin would be able to afford medical treatment for her son.

“Chheang Taistrin took a piece of paper to get people [to provide their] thumbprint. The paper was blank and she just handed it to them for thumbprints.

“Even though people asked questions, Taistrin didn’t tell them the truth. She said the thumbprints serve to help her child in the hospital,” he said.

Taistrin, 56, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The complaint dated August 1 said: “I and 230 people in Keo Seima district are saddened and dissatisfied and would like to file a complaint against Hoeun Sokna, male, Keo Seima district deputy governor in Mondulkiri province.

“The deputy governor has attempted to mistreat residents in the district. He has the intent to use violence against them.”

The complaint further alleged that Sokna claimed he knew well-connected people, pointed his gun at residents and threatened to kill innocent people.

It said he chased residents in his car and attempted to kill those who transported small pieces of timber to make profits for their families.

The complaint said Taistrin and people in the district would like to request officials at all levels to remove Sokna from his position, referring to him as a “brutal, immoral and violent official”.

It said Sokna only enforced the law against people transporting small pieces of timber but overlooked larger-scale timber traders who use trucks to transport timber because he accepts bribes from them.

Provincial court spokesman Meas Bros said he received the complaint from Taistrin on Monday. He is reviewing the complaint before he signs it and forwards it to a provincial court prosecutor for legal proceedings.