An alleged teenaged timber smuggler died and another was seriously injured after their pursuit by Forestry Administration and Environment Ministry officials ended in a car crash in Mondulkiri during the early hours of Saturday morning.
A police report identified Yorn Nhanh, 24, as the driver of a car transporting 13 pieces of luxury timber that crashed into the back of an Environment Ministry vehicle that had been chasing him through Keo Seima district, resulting in the death of his assistant, 19-year-old Chey Reaksmey.
The report added that Nhanh claimed to have paid two officials 200,000 riel (about $50) at the scene of the crash.
A complaint filed with the district police by Reaksmey’s father, Chey Seth, on Saturday accuses the Environment Ministry officials of having “unintentionally murdered” his son and calls for their arrest.
However, deputy provincial police chief Ngim Sophoeun said an investigation into the cause of the crash was ongoing and that he was waiting for a report from Keo Seima district police before drawing any conclusions.
“There were 13 pieces of wood in the car . . . The preliminary report concluded that the wood hit them in the backs and [Reaksmey] died on the scene,” Sophoeun said, adding that the authorities had yet to interview the two Environment Ministry officials.
Meanwhile, a string of seizures of luxury timber were made across the country over the weekend.
In Kampong Chhnang province 111 logs of first grade timber were seized by provincial economic crimes police officers from a truck on Thursday night, although both the driver and his assistant escaped before being arrested.
“The timber was from Pursat, be we don’t know where it was going because we had no information about it when the driver and his assistant escaped into the dark,” provincial economic crimes police chief Chin Sophat said, adding that truck and timber had been impounded by the provincial Forestry Administration office while the authorities attempt to identify their owners.
The same night, military police in Pursat’s Krakor district arrested Kampong Speu native Seng Leng, 28, after stopping his Hyundai truck loaded with 28 cubic metres of timber, according to the military police’s Facebook page.
Provincial military police commander Uk Samon declined to comment further on the case yesterday. However, Chea Hean, director of the National Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization said the timber had been heading to Kampot for sale in Vietnam before it was intercepted.