The Cambodian military confiscated more than 1,000 kilograms of contraband rosewood from a caravan belonging to 28 Cambodian loggers after they illegally harvested the timber across the Thai border.
A joint force primarily consisting of soldiers, with some police and Forestry Administration officials, stopped the men transporting 245 logs, weighing 1,317 kilograms, in Preah Vihear’s Choam Ksan district.
Chea Kimseng, Choam Ksan district governor, said the loggers were all released after the goods were confiscated.
“Once intercepted, at first they did not want the authorities to take the timber. We did not arrest them. We just confiscated the evidence and prepared documents to send to court,” Kimseng said.
Kimseng said the loggers were very poor and are willing to risk their lives for a profit.
“The people keep committing the forest crime and we do not know how to stop them. If we punish them severely, it seems unfair,” he said.
Local media source Mohachun News reported that the loggers initially refused to hand over the wood, complaining that they had already paid the appropriate bribes. The loggers allegedly each paid a total of $308 to a different group of soldiers before being confronted by a second group. One of the men claimed the second group stole some of the wood.
“I agreed to hand it to the authorities and I helped load it on trucks. Importantly, I want the stolen timber back. Where has [it] gone?” one of the men asks in a video clip posted to the Mohachun News website.
Ping Trida, director of the Preah Vihear’s Provincial Department of Agriculture, would not comment beyond denying the accusation.