Three Vietnamese nationals were arrested and more than 10 cubic metres of luxury timber impounded on Sunday after timber smugglers were shot at by military police officers in Kratie province, officials said yesterday.
A convoy of trucks laden with illegally sourced wood were transporting the loads towards the Vietnamese border in the province’s Snuol district when military police and customs officers tried to intervene, according to Chan Sokim, Snuol district police chief.
Another local police chief, Keo Vath, said the military police officers had fired three warning shots in the direction of the trucks as their drivers attempted to speed away from the sting.
“The military police officers are the ones who shot three times [in order] to stop the trucks who tried to escape. This is a timber offence,” he said.
Vath added that the casings of the bullets were recovered by border police. The military police, he said, had operated without the support of local forces.
Snuol police chief Sokin said the officers had managed to seize one truck and arrest three Vietnamese nationals. But, he said, a further 17 vehicles had made it across the border into Vietnam.
Keo Chea, Kratie provincial military police commander, declined to provide further details of the operation.
Ti Sovin Thal, Kratie’s chief prosecutor, said that the three detained men would remain in custody.
Snuol Wildlife Sanctuary, which is protected under a government decree, has seen vast swathes of once dense forest logged and parceled out to mostly foreign-owned plantation firms in recent years.