Hundreds of logs of illegal timber were seized across three eastern provinces over the weekend, despite government claims in April that it had put an end to illegal trade with Vietnam.
In Mondulkiri province, 453 logs were confiscated from three locations in Keo Seima district’s Sre Khtum commune, according to Forestry Administration district chief Choy Sokheang.
“The wood had been carried by people on their motorbikes. Vietnamese people were supposed to come and collect it, but they were stopped at the border so our officials investigated,” Sokheang said.
One stash of logs was uncovered on a rubber plantation, another on a cashew plantation, and the third in a charcoal factory located on the road to Vietnam over the course of a two-day joint operation between the Forestry Administration (FA), the prosecutor’s office, the army, military police and National Police on Thursday and Friday, Sokheang said.
In a separate case near the same charcoal factory, police stopped a car carrying 22 pieces of luxury wood, but the driver escaped, he added.
Meanwhile, Kratie province officials uncovered a sizeable haul over the weekend. FA officials in Chet Borei district’s Chang Krang commune seized 7 cubic metres of timber from a truck on Saturday afternoon, according to FA district chief Mey Vuthy.
“The driver escaped,” Vuthy said, adding the wood had been destined for sale in Tbong Khmum and Prey Veng provinces.
Tbong Khmum forestry officials also were busy on Saturday, seizing 80 pieces of luxury wood in Ponhea Krek district’s Korng Kang commune, according to Hak Seak Lim, spokesman for the provincial prosecutor’s office.
A posting on the Forestry Administration’s Facebook page said 37-year-old Tuon Rith was arrested along with the timber.
At the start of the year, a taskforce was established at the prime minister’s request to crack down on illegal logging in the Kingdom. In April, the taskforce announced it had put an end to timber smuggling across the border with Vietnam.
Asked yesterday if the weekend’s seizures indicated the crackdown had not been as decisive as originally thought, taskforce spokesman Eng Hy was adamant that was not the case.
“There is no wood being transported to Vietnam, and anyone who says there is doesn’t know what they’re saying,” Hy said. “The committee continues to work. When there is crime, there will be an arrest.”