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Forest agent caught with rare timber

Forest agent caught with rare timber

A HIGH-ranking member of the Forestry Administration who also works for Conservation International was arrested at 2am on Saturday on suspicion of trying to smuggle two truckloads of luxury timber to Vietnam, military police and government sources said Wednesday.

Ouk Kim San, who has been responsible for protecting the central Cardamom forests in Pursat province, was arrested in Takeo province near the Vietnamese border with three Vietnamese nationals as they were unloading timber worth tens of thousands of dollars, a military police officer involved in the arrest said.

"If this were a legal operation by this company, why was Ouk Kim San accompanying the shipment in the dead of night?" a source close to the issue said, adding that Ouk Kim San's permission letter was improperly completed and allowed for the transport of only 20 cubic metres of timber, not the 70 cubic metres that were confiscated.

David Emmett, deputy regional director for Conservation International, confirmed that Ouk Kim San had been arrested, but said he had been working to ensure a company that had legal permission to cut and sell timber did not log outside its designated boundaries.

"Past evidence has showed he's had many years of opportunities to cut down high-value timber, but he's done the opposite," Emmett said.

Sea Sambath, chief of the mil-itary police criminal investigation office, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Ouk Kim San was released from jail but could not be reached for comment.

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