Environmental rangers on Monday seized a pile of timber hidden in the forest behind a house in Pou Chrei commune’s Me Pai village in Mondulkiri province’s Pech Chreada district following reports from villagers.
Provincial Department of Environment director Keo Sopheak told The Post on Tuesday that a group of villagers on Sunday afternoon reported a pile of timber behind their neighbour’s house to Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary rangers, but that they did not know who hid it there and for what purpose.
Keo Sopheak said the rangers worked with local authorities on Monday to inspect the location and found 26 pieces of sokram wood (Burma ironwood) hidden in the forest near the village.
The rangers proceeded to gather and impound it at the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary to “register it into the state’s inventory because it has no owner”.
“The [operation was] successful because there was good cooperation from local people, who reported the location of the hidden timber clearly,” he said.
Kim Hong, the villager who spotted the pile of timber and reported it to the authorities and experts, told The Post that he found the pile after having seen motorbikes and trucks hauling timber across the village for three consecutive nights between December 13 and 15.
“It was really noisy! We do not know where they were hauling the timber to, but they hauled [it] with motorbikes and trucks across our village for two or three nights,” Hong said.
Me Pai village chief Soy Chinh said that on Saturday night, villagers heard a truck stop near the forest behind their village, but they did not go and inspect as it was dark.
They waited until Sunday morning to inspect when they spotted the pile of timber, covered with blue plastic canvas, grass and hay.
He said they reported their finding to Pou Chrei commune police to come and gather the timber, but the police officer on duty at the station said he was not an expert and requested the villagers to wait until Monday to contact the forestry administration and environment officials to inspect the site.
“Without further delay and being afraid that the timber traders might come back and gather it, the villagers went directly to the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary office, which is about 5km from the village,” Soy Chinh said.