Environmental activists and local authorities teamed up to arrest nine men allegedly transporting illegal timber on Tuesday near Oddar Meanchey province’s Samrong town. Bun Saluth, head of the Sorng Rukhavorn community forest in Oddar Meanchey, said the team of provincial environment officials and local activists confiscated nine logs of tbeng wood and three chainsaws and handed them to officials in charge of Sorng Rukhavorn Wildlife Sanctuary. Phuong Lina, head of the Environment Department in Oddar Meanchey province, said officials fined the nine suspects and released them on Wednesday morning.
Saluth said the team also seized five makeshift tractors, which will not be released until the offenders also pay an additional fine. The loggers were stopped on the road between Anlong Veng town and the provincial capital, Samrong town. They are thought to have taken the wood, which is classified as second-grade timber, from Rattanak Rokha community forest. Sorng Rukhavorn and Rattanak Rokha community forests are now part of the new 30,000-hectare Sorng Rukhavorn Wildlife Sanctuary, established last month.
The sanctuary also includes the area flooded by the Stung Treng II hydroelectric dam. Officials have acknowledged that the area is a hotspot for illegal logging. Last month, officials alleged that notorious Vietnamese timber trader Nguyen Thimay, also known as ‘Grandma May’, was free and back in business despite having been busted with a huge stockpile of rosewood in her home last year. And in February, Saluth publicly accused a pair of soldiers of beating and threatening forest patrollers who caught them transporting luxury timber.