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SUVs, illegal timber seized; drivers gone

SUVs, illegal timber seized; drivers gone

A manhunt is under way for the owners of two luxury cars that were caught transporting protected timber towards Vietnam in Mondulkiri province yesterday.

Keb Kort, director of the province’s Forestry Department, said the two SUVs were impounded after they were found to contain 28 pieces of Asian rosewood, known locally as neang nuon, a species protected under Cambodia’s forestry laws.

“The drivers managed to escape, but our forces impounded the cars and timber, and we are searching for the owners of the cars,” Kort said.

But the forestry officials may have taken on more than they can handle, said Sok Ratha, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc.

“The [cars] probably belong to rich and powerful timber people. It has become the culture to tolerate this behaviour and reap benefits from it, which are shared out systematically,” he said.

Soeurn Sopheak, Bousraa commune chief, said luxury cars such as those impounded yesterday were regularly seen transporting illegal timber through the area, especially after nightfall.

“We do not dare to stop them for inspection,” he said, adding that they head for the Bram Pi border crossing with Vietnam, just a few kilometres away.

However, Kort of the Forestry Department claimed that illegal transportation of timber has decreased in the province in recent months following numerous arrests and interventions.

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