Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tbong Khmum timber warehouses raided

Tbong Khmum timber warehouses raided

Authorities walk through a rosewood warehouse yesterday in Tbong Khmum province during a government raid. Photo supplied
Authorities walk through a rosewood warehouse yesterday in Tbong Khmum province during a government raid. Photo supplied

Tbong Khmum timber warehouses raided

Authorities yesterday raided several logging warehouses in the country’s east, just days after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a crackdown on illegal timber smuggling into Vietnam.

In a joint operation with multiple agencies, including district police, military police and forestry officials, authorities confirmed yesterday that two logging warehouses in Tbong Khmum province belonging to wealthy businessman Lim Bunna had been seized.

Officials said they were still assessing the size of the haul and could not yet release any details, but photos show hundreds of logs stacked in the warehouses. Authorities had yet to determine if the wood had been illegally logged.

“Since the morning, so far, there is still no proper estimate, and we are checking the relevant documents,” said Mao Pov, Tbong Khmum’s provincial police chief.

On Friday, the prime minister tasked National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha with leading a committee to shut down illegal timber smuggling across the border into Vietnam. The joint-forces body was lent two military helicopters to help their investigation.

At the time, a government spokesman said the tycoons Soeng Sam Ol and Lim Bunna were the primary targets of the sting. There was no word yesterday on the status of the investigation into Sam Ol, and officials would not say yesterday if they had Bunna in custody or if he would be arrested.

Hundreds of soldiers and police were also investigating land concessions yesterday in Kratie province, near the border of Mondulkiri.

“We have sent our forces to comply with orders of the committee and we have started do it step by step,” said military police spokesman Eng Hy.

Authorities walk through a large warehouse in Tbong Khmom province yesterday during a joint operation to crack down on illegal timber smuggling. Photo supplied
Authorities walk through a large warehouse in Tbong Khmom province yesterday during a joint operation to crack down on illegal timber smuggling. Photo supplied

San Bunthan, Kratie provincial military police chief, confirmed late yesterday that security forces had seized thousands of logs on a concession held by a Chinese company, but said that he could not reveal its name.

“We are keeping our forces stationed [at the land concession] to control the wood and in order to allow the Forestry Administration to check whether it was illegal or not,” he said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said authorities had been investigating the sites for some time, but until now had not obtained any solid evidence of illegal activity.

He could not confirm the status of the two tycoons being targeted, but said the “special operation” was ongoing.

“[The prime minister] asked [the committee] to seal all border lines where they are smuggling logs to Vietnam,” he said.

But not everyone was convinced that the latest crackdown was motivated by efforts to curb deforestation.

“Sadly, it has all the hallmarks of a dispute,” said Marcus Hardtke, of the German conservation group ARA.

Citing similar cases of the government making public announcements followed by busts in the past, Hardtke said these efforts had done little to curb Cambodia’s rampant illegal logging trade.

“I don’t see any larger-scale shift in policy away from deforestation or illegal logging.”

Additional reporting by Daniel de Carteret

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Thy Sovantha threatens new suit

    Social media celebrity and card-carrying CPP member Thy Sovantha yesterday said she will file a lawsuit against wildlife NGO head Suwanna Gauntlett alleging discrimination after the latter allegedly denied her access to an ecotourism program the group is launching today in Koh Kong province. The

  • Police raid Siem Reap party, arrest 10 foreigners over ‘pornographic’ images

    A group of 10 foreign tourists appeared in court today after being arrested for producing “pornographic” photos in Siem Reap town on Thursday, while dozens more were detained temporarily and let go after being lectured on their behaviour, according to authorities. A report posted to the

  • Hun Sen’s in-law removed from RCAF after cockfighting rings raided

    Thai Phany, the nephew-in-law of Prime Minister Hun Sen who is accused of running two large cockfighting rings, has been removed as a general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. Phany, formerly a one-star brigadier general, was removed by royal decree on December 19, according to

  • Government approves plan to relocate Phnom Penh’s airport

    The government has signed off on a proposal to build a new airport to serve Phnom Penh and has earmarked land in Kandal province for the $1.5 billion project. A new international airport to replace the existing Phnom Penh International Airport will be constructed on partially