In a surprising twist, border police detained 16 illegal rosewood loggers on Wednesday, but rather than making any arrests, they released the men and paid for their fare home.
Thirteen of the loggers were detained while en route from Oddar Meanchey’s Anlong Veng district to Thailand, while the other three were caught attempting to smuggle nearly 500 kilograms of rosewood into Cambodia, said Chhit Chhorn, deputy chief of staff at the provincial police office.
“Their village is on the border, so they clearly know the location of the rosewood and climb Dangrek Mountain to log in Thailand easily,” Chhorn said.
All the men are from Oddar Meanchey’s Samrong town.
In addition to 47 pieces of luxury rosewood, border police seized two motorbikes, six axes, four hand saws and other logging equipment from the men. The 16 were questioned and released. Only timber was confiscated, while the other items were returned to the loggers.
The provincial authorities also gave each of the men $5 to pay for the car ride back to their hometown. The provincial police department declined to explain why the men were treated with such unusual leniency.