Authorities in Siem Reap remained tight-lipped yesterday regarding five men – two of them purportedly members of the military – who were arrested on Sunday in connection with 8 tonnes of Siamese rosewood stashed inside an empty petrol tanker.
Two of the men were charged earlier this week with illegally transporting timber products. But the fate of the remaining three – two of whom allegedly identified themselves as soldiers – continued to be a mystery as of yesterday evening.
Asked about the trio yesterday, provincial prosecutor’s office spokesman Ream Channy said he was in Phnom Penh and had yet to hear from the prosecutor in charge of the case, Keut Vannareth, to whom he directed enquiries.
Vannareth in turn referred questions back to Channy, before hanging up on a reporter. Reached again, Channy suggested contacting provincial court administrator Yin Sreng.
“Please send me a message, I will check and get back to you,” said Sreng, who did not reply to a subsequent message.
Sunday’s bust was one of the largest seizures of Siamese rosewood this year. Conservationist Marcus Hardtke said in text messages yesterday that it should serve as a wake-up call to the government.
“It’s time for the government to recognise that this is organised crime, similar to the drug trade,” Hardtke said. “Cover-ups and shady deals will not solve this problem.”
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