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Kratie sees two cases of ‘illegal’ timber trading

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Authorities seen outside Oknha Chey’s warehouse on Saturday in Kratie province. Photo supplied

Kratie sees two cases of ‘illegal’ timber trading

Two cases of alleged illegal timber trading – which potentially implicate tycoons and military officials – occurred in Kratie province over the weekend, but ultimately no arrests were made.

On Saturday morning in Snuol district, a joint force of Military Police and Forestry Administration officers surrounded a warehouse belonging to “Oknha Chey”, after receiving an anonymous tip he was harbouring illegal timber.

Chey was implicated in the illegal timber trade in May this year, when a National Police report claimed he oversaw a logging operation on behalf of business mogul Kith Meng’s Royal Group, which allegedly transported wood to Vietnam “day and night”.

The National Police later backpedalled on the uncharacteristically critical report, and no arrests were made over the allegations.

Yesterday, Kuy Hout, director of the Kratie Agriculture Department, claimed that a search of Chey’s warehouse cleared the business tycoon of any wrongdoing.

“We inspected it, but we did not find any problem. The timber is legal,” Hout said, before hanging up on a reporter.

Many district officials, including Provincial Military Police Commander San Bunthan and National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy, claimed they were not aware of the raid.

According to a media report, trucks belonging to Oknha Soeng Sam Ol and Oknha Vorn Bun Thai transported the illegal timber from Mondulkiri to the warehouse on Friday night. The wood was then allegedly sold to Vietnam.

In a separate incident in Sambor district yesterday, a military truck loaded with illegal timber collided with a minivan.

“A military truck bearing military licence plate numbers transported equipment and food to soldiers stationed at the Cambodia-Lao border, but when it returned it transported some timber,” a police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity said.

“The military truck driver transported just a little timber, not much. It is the military force, so please have pity and do not publish a story about it.”

The two vehicles were travelling in opposite directions and collided at a curve in the road, but no one was injured. Pictures of the crash appear to show the minivan was also transporting planks of wood.

“Both sides are wrong, but they agreed to deal with the problem at the scene. Both vehicles are partly damaged. They were all careless and caused the accident,” the police officer said.

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