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A tree lies on the ground near Koh Ker in Preah Vihear province last week after it was illegally felled. Photo supplied

Temple timber cutters sought

Authorities in Preah Vihear province are hunting 12 people, including an environmental protection official, suspected of involvement in illegally harvesting 10 luxury wood trees near the ancient archaeological site of Koh Ker.

The logging was discovered during a visit to Kulen district’s Srayong commune in the days after the Pchum Ben festival closed on October 14 by officers from the Forestry Administration and Apsara Authority, which is tasked with conserving ancient archaeological sites.

“The suspects used a chainsaw to cut down the trees at night during the Pchum Ben days,” said local community leader Sem Lom yesterday. “They logged some trees near an [Apsara] outpost, but there was no intervention, suggesting collusion.”

A local villager, who accompanied the officials during the inspection but declined to be named, said 12 suspects who live in Srayong commune’s Romchek village are wanted for questioning, with an Apsara ranger among them.

Apsara Authority spokesperson Chau Sun Kerya yesterday declined to comment on the allegation that an authority official was involved.

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