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More than 300 kakoh logs seized in Ratanakkiri secret timber stash

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Kakoh logs were confiscated on Monday by Ratanakkiri provincial anti-financial crime police. Supplied

More than 300 kakoh logs seized in Ratanakkiri secret timber stash

More than 300 kakoh logs were confiscated on Monday by Ratanakkiri provincial anti-financial crime police, in cooperation with Banlung district authorities at a secret timber storage site in Yeak Loam commune’s Labo village.

The logs have been handed over to local Forestry Administration officials pending legal procedures.

Banlung district police chief Huot Borey told The Post on Wednesday that the raid was conducted after a patrol team identified an apparently closed down location where people were waiting to buy timber.

He said the logs were being secretly collected at night and taken away on motorbikes. The site was closed and deserted during the daytime.

“When we saw this irregularity, our authorities requested a warrant from the Ratanakkiri provincial prosecutor to inspect the location. After that, we found 315 kakoh logs measuring 25cm thick by 1.2m long,” he said.

Ratanakkiri provincial Forestry Administration chief Keb Kot told The Post that agency officials are attempting to identify the owners of the secret timber selling operation and bring them to justice for harvesting timber without a permit.

“The wood is being kept temporarily by the provincial Forestry Administration to wait for legal action to be taken."

“In this case, the owner could face a fine under the Forestry Law if a court finds he has been operating a site to buy and sell processed and unprocessed timber without permission,” Kot said, adding that the confiscated timber amounted to more than 15 cubic metres.

Ratanakkiri court spokesman Keo Pisoth said on Wednesday that neither local nor provincial-level police had yet to find the owner of the timber cache.

“The case has not yet been submitted to our court. Local officials said the location has had multiple transfers of ownership in the last few years, so they have requested a delay while they ascertain who and where the owner is,” Pisoth said.

Separately in Mondulkiri province, the sub-committee for researching and combating natural resource crime has launched a campaign to monitor companies with land concessions that run operations to clear and harvest forest land in the province.

Provincial governor Svay Sam Eang said the campaign began on Saturday and the sub-committee has already found some companies that were failing to replant trees on harvested land.

Provincial Military Police commander Hem Bonarel, who joined the campaign, told The Post on Wednesday that authorities had also found four stockpiles of timber in Pou Lu village in Pech Chreada district’s Bou Sra commune.

“The wood was hidden under plastic sheets with grass on top. There’s a total of 92 pieces, and we have collected and handed them over to the Mondulkiri Forestry Administration to keep and proceed in accordance with the law,” Bonarel said.