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Police hunt men who shot at forestry officials

Siem Reap Province
POLICE in Siem Reap province’s Varin district are on the hunt for a gunman who shot at Forestry Administration officials as they were removing logs from a car they siezed during an illegal logging bust.

District police chief Nop Narak said the shooting occurred on Friday, and that no one was injured.

“We cannot reveal the name of the suspect because our officials are still investigating the case,” he said. “This is the first time a logger dared shoot at officials.”

Tith Vy, one of the four provincial forestry officials who was fired upon, said they had been following a Toyota Camry that they suspected contained illegal wood.

“When we followed the car, the loggers ran away,” he said, and added that the officials were unable to get a good look at the shooter.

“When we took the car to our office and removed the woods from the car, [the gunman] fired on us,” he said, and added that only one shot was fired.

Tea Kimsoth, provincial director of the Forestry Administration, said he was working with the provincial prosecutor to identify and arrest the gunman.

“If we know them, we will arrest them and put them in jail,” he said. “Our officials are frightened.”

Tith Vy said he did not know whether the shooting was directly linked to the seizure of the car.

“I cannot assume the motive behind the shooting because it could be different from the findings of police,” he said.

He said that although officials were frightened by the incident, they would continue the crackdown on illegal logging because their role “is to protect the forest, and sometimes it is dangerous”.

In January, Prime Minister Hun Sen told an audience of military commanders that illegal logging involving businessmen and high-ranking government officials would no longer be tolerated, prompting a nationwide crackdown.

In March, Ty Sokun, then-director of the Forestry Administration, said more than 3,000 cubic metres of luxury wood had been siezed during raids since the directive was passed down.

But the premier fired Ty Sokun in April for failing to adequately crack down on illegal logging.

“I think Ty Sokun has no more ability to resolve this issue. I’m beginning to despair ... [so] it is time to remove,” Hun Sen said at the time.

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