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Luxury timber seized in Pursat, Ratanakkiri

Authorities have seized large amounts of luxury wood following busts on two separate illegal timber transporters in Pursat and Ratanakkiri provinces.

Local Forestry Administration officials together with Phnom Kravanh district police forces on Friday reported intercepting some five tractor loads containing 29 tbeng logs.

According to local police, the vehicles have been impounded but their owners were not arrested.

Nin Sokong, a Leach commune Forestry Administration official, explained that authorities are only legally entitled to prosecute offenders for unlicensed transporting with a fine and contractual commitment to cease the activities.

“The authorities could not arrest those drivers or the owners because timber hauling is not an obvious forestry crime,” he said.

Sokong reported that the seized timber was logged in farmland in Kset Borei village belonging to relatives of the haulers, who were transporting the logs without permission for sale in Bakan district.

Chhay Saran, the district’s Forestry Administration director, yesterday noted that the fine would be paid directly to the national treasury and that court action would be taken only if the parties failed to comply with the penalty.

A further 500-plus kilograms of Siamese rosewood was intercepted in Ratanakkiri’s Kon Mom district yesterday morning following a chase across Preah Vihear province, according to local authorities.

After receiving a tip-off, police reported that more than 10 officers from the Ministry of Interior’s anti-economic crimes unit pursued and apprehended two vehicles.

“We blocked their way to arrest them and they tried to escape in reverse, but it was a dead end,” said police chief Nov Dara. “So the drivers removed the rosewood off their cars and managed to flee easily.”

The police officers, he said, then seized the abandoned rosewood and transported it to their offices before forwarding the load to the provincial Forestry Administration.

“The rosewood totalled 64 logs at 539 kilograms,” said Dara. “The cars were heading to our province, but we could not say whether or not they were going to Vietnam.”

Although police noted that they had obtained some identifying information about the timber transporters, they were unable to reveal further details.

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