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Adhoc targets smuggling in Ratanakkiri

THE Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc has filed a complaint against the head of a suspected illegal timber-smuggling business, who stands accused of attempting to take more than 200 pieces of luxury wood out of the country and threatening to kill anyone who got in his way.

Pen Bonnar said that 230 pieces of luxury wood, each measuring 2.5 metres in length, were discovered Wednesday in the forest by residents of Pong commune, Veun Sai district, who promptly reported them to Adhoc and local officials.

He charged that the wood belonged to a man called Cheang Thai, and that, in violation of proper procedure, officials did not secure the 150 pieces that were left in the forest.

A total of 80 pieces were sent to the district Forestry Administration office, but the ones that were left are now unaccounted for, he said.

“We suggested that authorities deploy security forces to protect the timber, but officials said they didn’t have enough forces because it was in the evening,” he said.

La Bun Peng, a representative for the forestry community in Veun Sai district that discovered the wood, said Cheang Thai threatened members of the community who threatened to break up his operation, saying, “If you seize my timber, I will kill all of you.”

Reached on Monday, Cheang Thai denied the allegations against him.

“The complaint against me about illegal wood smuggling and threatening villagers is not true,” he said.

Toeur Nouthorn, Veun Sai district police chief, said Monday that he had summoned villagers to be questioned in the case on Tuesday, and that Cheang Thai would be asked to meet with police soon.

Meanwhile, Vong Somethy, the head of the Forestry Administration in Veun Sai district, said that the confiscated timber was at his office, though he declined to comment further.

Pen Bonnar said his complaint was to be filed with the provincial court by 4pm on Monday.

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