At least 2 cubic metres of luxury-grade timber were discovered on Monday at a Ratanakkiri province guesthouse belonging to a district deputy traffic police chief, who pinned the blame on a renter, according to a court official.
Chea Pich, provincial court prosecutor, said most of the timber discovered in a vacant room during the early morning raid was luxury-grade thnong. Officials were working to identify the other species found at the guesthouse, which belongs to Banlung district Deputy Traffic Police Chief Chhin Then, he said.
“We do not know about the number and types of that timber yet because they were being inspected and measured by the provincial Forestry Administration officials,” Pich said.
Pich said his team needed seven carts to transport the timber from the rental room, and estimated there were at least 2 cubic metres of timber.
Pich said Then immediately denied ownership of the illegal haul, claiming a Vietnamese man named “Mr Sueng” had rented the room and stored the wood there.
“For this case, we do not yet know clearly yet whether [Then] colluded with the Vietnamese timber trader. We are waiting for the report from the Forestry Administration,” Pich said.
Ly Sophan, Forestry Administration chief in Banlung town, said his team would question Then further to garner more information about the alleged owner.
“Our team is working on this case in accordance with procedure,” Sophan said.
Meanwhile, villagers accused Then of being involved in the illegal timber trade in local media reports, asking why he did not report the illegal timber to other officials.