Officials, tipped off by “secret agents”, intercepted a load of illegal luxury timber being smuggled in a tourist bus travelling from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.
Sut Mary, chief of the Kampong Thma commune Forestry Administration Cantonment, in Kampong Thom province’s Santuk district, said a Rith Mony bus was intercepted after loading up 22 pieces of illegally felled rosewood in Siem Reap’s Chi Kraeng district.
“Joint forces including military, police and Forestry Administration officials stopped the bus at 3am after getting tipped off from secret agents in Siem Reap. But the driver escaped after they found the luxury rosewood timber,” he said.
The timber, Mary said, amounted to 0.303 cubic metres.
It is not clear how the driver was able to escape when the bus had been hauled up by a joint force of officials.
Sam Vichet, Rith Mony administration manager, said the company had begun preparing legal papers against the driver.
“We are preparing legal documents and searching to apprehend the driver who broke the company’s rules,” he said.
In Kampong Thom’s Baray district, Mary said, a Toyota Camry carrying 235 pieces of rosewood weighing 1,200 kilograms was raided at the Kampong Thma bridge in Balaing commune – but once again the driver mysteriously escaped.
“After 30 days, if the owners of both cars aren’t present to resolve this legally, we will send the cases and the evidence to court,” he said.
The most valuable species of rosewood can fetch about $10,000 per cubic metre in Cambodia and far higher prices in foreign markets such as China.
Its value continually increases as the wood becomes rarer in Cambodia due to the rampant illegal logging of the wood that takes place almost any area of the Kingdom where it’s found.
In Cambodia’s Northeast, rosewood has been so comprehensively logged that villagers, often employed by powerful syndicates, routinely risk being fatally shot by Thai soldiers during crossings into the neighbouring country to illegally log.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kim Yuthana at [email protected]