A disguised shipment of nearly eight cubic metres of illegal rosewood worth an estimated $50,000 was snagged yesterday in a Forestry Administration dragnet in Siem Reap province after agents in Banteay Meanchey alerted authorities the shipment was headed their way, Forestry officials said.
Siem Reap Provincial Forestry Administration chief Tea Kimsoth said that the joint team of provincial prosecutors and local authorities who discovered the truck – which was carrying 7.61 metres of the endangered “luxury” wood hidden under a shipment of bags of cement – suspected that it was headed for Kampong Cham province, on the Vietnamese border.
“We received a report from our agent that there was a truck loaded with cement coming from Banteay Meanchey province and was suspected of hiding luxury rosewood,” Kimsoth said. “Therefore, we co-operated with the relevant authorities to track down the truck, but when we arrived, the driver had escaped from the scene.”
According to Kimsoth, the truck was found in Sotr Nikum district’s Khchas commune, and had no number plate, but was kept as evidence to help with the search for the driver and the wood’s owner.
“It was the third raid since February after Prime Minister [Hun Sen] issued an order to take measures to prevent and crack down on the collecting, stocking and exportation of rosewood, but the two previous raids were just small scale,” he added.
On February 22, Hun Sen ordered all the commanders of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and police stationed along the borders with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam to take more thorough measures to stop the illegal rosewood trade, saying that “individual commanders have to take responsibility” for cases of cross-border smuggling.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay, however, said that the ongoing illegal trade was made possible by connections between the rich and those in the government.
“I don’t think that there are many [smuggling] corridors for crossing the border with neighbouring countries,” he said. “If the government had the real political will, there would be an effective measure to stop this illegal smuggling of rosewood and other wood.”