Officials on Saturday detained 12 men on suspicion of illegally transporting hundreds of logs along the Sekong River in Stung Treng province, police said yesterday.
According to Chheang Tola, director of the provincial Forestry Administration, a huge flotilla of rafts and boats pulling the timber was stopped by provincial forestry officers when it reached Stung Treng town on Saturday afternoon.
“Our officers arrested the men and we are questioning them one by one,” Tola said.
The suspects, aged 15 to 46, had tied the timber together with rope before attaching it to the various craft in Siem Pang district, he added.
Only commonplace salao trees were visible on the surface, but some of the timber was submerged, and Tola’s officers are attempting to establish if it included more high-value species.
Officials had only been able to get around 10 per cent of the haul out of the water yesterday, because soft earth had made it difficult for heavy lifting equipment to get the logs to dry land.
In a separate case, Stung Treng provincial military and forestry officers arrested a truck driver, along with his accomplice who was driving a car, for transporting 182 logs of luxury timber, according to Sam Ol, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc. Both men were taken to the police office and asked to pay fines.
“If they refuse to pay the fine, the case will be sent to court,” Ol added.
According to a press release from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, “trafficking of wildlife and timber” was added to the list of regional priority transnational crime threats at an ASEAN ministerial meeting on Friday.