Mondulkiri police deny officer arrested over timber

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Mondulkiri provincial police deny that authorities had arrested O’Raing district deputy police chief for trading in luxury wood. Photo supplied

Mondulkiri provincial police on Thursday denied local media reports that authorities had arrested O’Raing district deputy police chief Khai Vannak for trading in luxury wood, claiming he was merely questioned by a prosecutor.

The denial came after the online news agency Angkor Wat reported on Wednesday that Vannak was detained on Tuesday along with the timber and his truck used to transport the wood.

Deputy provincial police chief Sou Sovan said Vannak was merely questioned by court prosecutor and spokesman Morm Vanda over the transportation of small-sized timber from his unit to his house in Keo Seima district.

“I’ve received a report that Khai Vannak is involved in trading small pieces of timber to sell as firewood for money to cover food and gasoline expenses. He was not detained. This is a small case,” he said, adding that he was unsure if Vannak had ever traded luxury wood as claimed.

The report also alleged that Vannak had paid a $35,000 bribe to relevant authorities for his release.

Vanda, the prosecutor, dismissed the bribery accusation as baseless.

“It’s not true that police had received $35,000 from [Vannak]. I don’t know where they got the information from,” he said, declining further comment.

Mondulkiri provincial Forestry Administration head Um Van Sopheak said he had not received a report about the case and referred reporters to police.

“The provincial police have not yet sent the timber in question to my unit in accordance with legal procedure, so I don’t know for sure. I’ve only heard a rumour about it,” he said.

Vannak could not be reached for comment on Thursday.