Another Royal Cambodian Armed Forces vehicle loaded with timber, the second in as many weeks, was stopped by authorities in Oddar Meanchey’s Anlong Veng district on Tuesday night, one of three illegal wood seizures on the same day.
While Forestry Administration (FA) officials managed to chase down the RCAF vehicle, as was the case last week, the driver escaped. Deputy provincial prosecutor Sorm Sopheak said the FA confiscated 20 kilograms of luxury wood from the car, which belongs to RCAF’s brigade 41.
“The driver escaped when the authorities tried to arrest him,” Sopheak said yesterday. Last week, authorities in Anlong Veng stopped a car with RCAF plates, containing more than 300 kilos of rosewood.
Provincial prosecutor Koy Kanya said at the time that it’s hard for officers to pursue offenders fleeing on foot. However, Prey Lang Community Network spokesman Seng Sokheng said yesterday that corruption among officials is the likelier explanation for the escapes.
A conservation expert who declined to be named due to their work with the government, yesterday said that despite a much-heralded crackdown, the military remains involved in many logging operations in the northern provinces.
Illegal timber is brought to economic concessions owned by RCAF officers or to military-populated social concessions then “laundered”.
“These concessions have a right to collect timber from clearing their own land,” said the source. “When [illegal] timber is taken there, they create [fake] documents for it” to make the wood appear as if it came from within the concession.
Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat yesterday said that RCAF would not try to protect the latest suspect, but warned against generalised criticism.
“This is an individual and it is not a unit problem,” he said. Sopheak also said a March case involving a standoff between forestry officials defending a seized timber truck and Brigade 4 soldiers attempting to seize it back had reached the provincial court but could not offer more details.
Separately on Tuesday, more than 11 tonnes of rosewood in a heavy truck were intercepted near the Vietnam border in Tbong Khmum by customs officers.
The wood was covered with sugar sacks. “The custom experts suspected timber was hidden, so they checked,” said Provincial Governor Brach Chan, who added that no arrests were made.
Local residents have complained of heavy timber traffic through Tbong Khmum over the past weeks. Military police spokesman Eng Hy said he had not yet received a report about the seizure.
In another case the same day, Siem Reap forestry officers stopped a heavy truck with 261 logs of timber being illegally transported.