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Officials seize 2 tonnes of illegal rosewood from the home of “Grandma May” in Oddar Meanchey province in February. Photo supplied

Vietnamese timber trader ‘Grandma May’ flees after order to arrest her

A Vietnamese national reputed to be a prominent illegal timber trader is believed to have fled to her native country after the Oddar Meanchey provincial governor ordered her arrest last week.

Following numerous reports about her purported crimes on local news outlets, Provincial Governor Sar Thavy on Wednesday ordered the arrest of Nguyen Thimay, also known as “Grandma May”, for her alleged involvement in the illegal purchase and transportation of timber.

“The press reported that Vietnamese national May buys and hauls rosewood without any intervention from authorities, so I ordered the arrest of May,” Thavy said yesterday, adding that the suspect is thought to have escaped to Vietnam.

Apart from forestry crimes, last month, May was accused by villagers in Oddar Meanchey province of ordering her workers to set a timber-loaded vehicle on fire in order to destroy evidence.

During a crackdown on Saturday, over 270 kilograms of rosewood were seized in Trapaing Prasat district after the car carrying it was intercepted by authorities, who believe the timber belonged to May, although “there is no evidence to prove it”, said District Governor Nouv Samdararith.

Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, supported the order for the suspect’s arrest, but criticised the decision to make it public “because it makes the traders escape”.

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