Authorities in Stung Treng province arrested timber trader Heng Samnieng yesterday in connection with a string of timber-trafficking offences, according to military police spokesman Eng Hy.
Samnieng, a Vietnamese national better known as “Grandma Proeung”, has seen her warehouses raided on multiple occasions this year, but had so far avoided arrest.
She was finally caught while in the act of attempting to retrieve her impounded lumber with the assistance of seven employees, Hy said.
“We arrested her,” Hy said. “The Forestry Administration built up the case against her, but we arrested her after she led her people to take back her wood.”
Men Kong, a spokesman for the provincial government, said the seized timber had been under armed guard when Samnieng and her seven cohorts arrived yesterday morning to negotiate for its release.
“When she insisted on taking back her wood, we did not allow it and instead took action,” Kong said. “We arrested her and questioned her in compliance with the law.”
The seven employees took flight when they saw Samnieng’s arrest was imminent, he added.
Stung Treng Provincial Court spokesman Sun Yoeurth said that Samnieng is currently in detention and her case is due to be forwarded to the court.
Meanwhile, in Ratanakkiri province’s Andong Meas district, a village chief and Jarai community members reported that 21 Vietnamese nationals illegally crossed into Cambodian territory to fell 150 trees within a protected forest.
Romam Hyang, 52, said that he and two other community members had been patrolling the protected forest on Wednesday when they saw 21 Vietnamese nationals logging with four chainsaws, two motorbikes and two other machines used for transporting timber.
“Most of them ran when they saw us, only seven remained with us in the forest,” Hyang said, adding that the Vietnamese told them they had been operating in the forest since October 2 under the protection of a security guard named Ro-cham Hyal, who they claimed to have been paying $23 a day.
Hyal could not be reached for comment yesterday. However, Rocham Heuy, chief of nearby Taing Se village, confirmed that Hyal was employed as a security guard, and accused him of colluding with the loggers.
“While patrolling, he [Hyal] made a phone call to the loggers to alert them. He does not listen to us and he takes money secretly,” Heuy alleged.