A district deputy police chief in Ratanakkiri province is to be summonsed to court for questioning after a police raid on his house Friday turned up more than 10 cubic metres of illegal luxury wood.
Provincial anti-economic crime police, who carried out the raid, found three varieties of protected rosewood – chheu thnoung, beng and neang nuon – at the home of Captain Lak Vannarith, Andong Meas’s deputy police chief, Colonel Nov Dara, chief of the anti-economic crime unit, said.
Police searched the house after neighbours reported to police that Vannarith and his wife were involved with stockpiling and transporting illegal timber, Dara said.
At the time of the raid, Vannarith was not home, Dara said. Vannarith’s wife claimed sole ownership of the wood but was not arrested at the scene.
But because a prosecutor after the raid accused Vannarith of transporting and stocking luxury woods without authorisation, he will receive a summons, said a Ratanakkiri provincial court officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Under Article 100 of the Kingdom’s Forestry Law, any activities carried out by local authorities that directly or indirectly contribute to forest exploitation are subject to one to five years in prison and a fine of up to 100 million riel ($25,000).
Chhay Thy, a coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the group will conduct a full investigation into Vannarith’s case. He alleged that police and government officials are often involved with the transportation of illegal timber.
“Many forests and luxury woods are illegally cut down in Ratanakkiri and sold to neighbouring countries. This is because officials in the military, police or the royal government are often behind it,” Thy said.
Vannarith, his wife and provincial police chief Ra Rai could not be reached for comment.