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Four Pursat men arrested with timber released on bail

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Military police arrest four men and impounded two trucks in Pursat on Saturday. Supplied

Four Pursat men arrested with timber released on bail

FOUR men were granted bail by Pursat provincial court on Saturday after they were caught illegally transporting 11 timber logs in Phnom Kravanh district on Thursday.

Provincial Department of Agriculture director Lay Visith on Sunday said provincial forestry administration officials sent the four to court on Saturday.

“I don’t have the details on the detainment [of the men] or the court case. I just know they were arrested with 11 big logs of timber transported on two trucks,” he said.

Provincial Department of Environment director Pan Morakat said he was informed of the crime by locals, but did not receive an official report from provincial and district military police, who took legal action on the case.

“The officials are working on it with the court,” he said.

Provincial deputy military police commander Sou Sovandy said Phnom Kravanh district military police officials led by district military police commander Chan Sokha, working in cooperation with the national counterpart, successfully cracked down on the transport of the forest products.

After the arrest, military police sent the men and evidence to the district forestry administration to take further action in accordance with the law, but did not receive detailed information.

“I did not question where they were transporting the wood to sell because they were sent to the forestry administration after the arrest. It is no longer in my hands,” he said, adding that forestry administration officials questioned them and compiled a report.

Phnom Kravanh forestry administration chief Thorn Bunthet could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Provincial deputy prosecutor Chhay Hong said he saw the case and an investigating judge questioned them, but they were looking for more evidence.

He added that the men confessed that they were hired to transport the timber, but did not know who the owner of the timber was.

“The prosecutor questioned them [and sent them to the investigating judge]. They were allowed to return home. They must cooperate with the court to look for the owner of the timber. We did not detain them longer because they were merely hired,” Hong said, adding that the court told the four that they must show up to court for future questioning.

Kuch Veng, a provincial natural resource and human rights activist, said forest crimes in the province continue unabated and that forests in protected areas are under attack. He blamed authorities for turning a blind eye on the crimes. In addition, some notorious timber traders in the area have solicited locals to log wood for them, he alleged.

“Before, some of us patrolled and slept in the forest and some loggers threatened to kill us. Now I do not patrol the forest because I am afraid of being killed. And there is no more forest to safeguard because it is gone,” Veng said.

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