More than four cubic metres of rosewood was seized in Pursat province on Monday, officials said yesterday, the second- largest bust of the sought-after timber in less than a week.
Phnom Kravanh district forestry administration officers yesterday appealed for the owners to come forward and confess, after joint authorities found the wood hidden in a truck carrying cassava in Santre commune.
“If no owners confess, we will file a complaint with the court to take legal action,” Net Vanna, chief of Phnom Kravanh’s forest administration, said.
Should the men come forward, they would be fined but not charged, Vanna said.
“Forest crimes are different from other crimes, in that if the owners come to confess, they pay the fine and then are free from court charges, but the wood will be seized as state property,” he said.
Vanna said he was unsure what the fine would be, but typically it was set at three times the price of the wood.
Military police and forestry administration officials stopped the truck because of its lack of licence plates. While investigating, they found the wood.
“We confiscated 91 pieces of wood equalling four and a half cubic metres and sent them to Phnom Kravanh district forest administration to take legal action,” Vanna said, adding that the drivers had fled when the truck was stopped and police had no leads on the owners.
In February, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed an order cracking down on the transporting, collecting, stocking and exporting of rosewood. The detailed directive notes that if there is smuggling in any area, the local commander of that area could be held responsible.
Last week, authorities at the Thai- Cambodian border seized seven cubic metres of what an Interior Ministry official called “the highest-grade rosewood I have ever seen”. No arrests have been made in that case.
Chhim Savuth, a co-ordin-ator at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights who tracks logging, said that with erratic enforcement, increased crackdowns would have no effect.
“If we want to crack down effectively, we must arrest the masterminds of major traders to be brought to justice,” Savuth said.