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Truck swaps student volunteers for timber

Student volunteers participate in a land titling program at Koh Pich in 2012.
Student volunteers participate in a land titling program at Koh Pich in 2012. Heng Chivoan

Truck swaps student volunteers for timber

Two military officers were busted yesterday morning allegedly attempting to transport protected timber through Pursat province in a government truck previously used in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s land-titling program, according to police.

Ket Sarak, a senior official with Krokor district police, said the two military officers from Preah Vihear province’s Brigade 99 – Yan Rem, 29, and Ul Sothear, 45 – were arrested at about 6am when police and Forestry Administration officials uncovered dozens of cubic metres of protected thnong timber in the back of their truck.

According to Sarak, the two men said they had been sent out with the truck – which was previously used to transport student volunteers across the country to measure and demarcate plots of land – to collect clothing and food for members of their battalion.

But the pair admitted that during a rest-stop in Phnom Kravanh district, they contacted an illegal timber trader and offered to transport the wood to Phnom Penh for a fee, he said.

“After questioning, the Forestry Administration experts decided to free those military officials and handed the vehicle back to their unit. The timber, which had diameters measuring from 40 to 60 centimetres, were impounded at Pursat province’s Forestry Administration office,” Sarak added.

Pol Chantha, chief of Krokor district’s Forestry Administration, confirmed that the timber had been impounded at his office but said officials had not yet measured the exact amount of wood seized.

He said the two suspects had been sent back to their Preah Vihear barracks for “education in the military rules”.

Elsewhere yesterday, in Ratanakkiri province, military police and Forestry Administration officials intercepted a vehicle with a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) licence plate that was attempting to transport luxury wood into Vietnam.

Keb Kot, director of the provincial Forestry Administration, said officials discovered 26 pieces of neang nuon timber in an RCAF-licensed Land Cruiser.

The discovery came just one day after luxury timber was discovered in a separate RCAF-licensed vehicle.

“The timber and the vehicles have been impounded at Ratanakkiri province’s Forestry Administration office where they will stay . . . until the lawsuit is prepared for the court,” he said.

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