The ongoing nationwide crackdown on illegal logging has produced another pair of high-profile busts touted by the national military police.
Early yesterday morning, alleged smugglers in Stung Treng were busted attempting to sneak three tractor loads of luxury wood into Laos.
The day before, some 10,000 cubic metres of illegal timber were found on a conservation site in Modulkiri province, according to provincial military police commander Sak Sarang.
The Mondulkiri site had previously been an ELC granted to Kasekam Khmer Angkor (KKA), an agricultural company.
Visiting the site, head of the recently formed anti-logging taskforce Sao Sokha called for KKA to be prosecuted.
“The most important thing is that the company was collecting timber here. This is a sign for starting a prosecution,” said Sokha.
“The evidence here is the evidence of forest crime. It’s a brazen crime by Kasekam Khmer Angkor”KKA was stripped of its concession in 2014 and a licence to gather leftover timber was subsequently granted to another unnamed company, according to provincial environment department director Chhit Sophal. Representatives of KKA were not reachable for comment yesterday.
Taskforce leader Sokha told military police officers at the site their job was twofold.
Firstly, to guard the illicit wood against opportunistic thieves and forest fires, which have struck the former KKA ELC several times in recent months. One fire in January and another, burning up roughly 100 logs, struck two or three days ago, according to Environment Ministry spokesman Eng Hy.
“The most important goal is to take care of the timber from fire and thieves,” said Sokha.Their second task, he said, was to ascertain how much of the wood was legal. The timber collection licence allowed just 700 cubic metres to be removed from the site.
“So our work is to find the 700, and anything beyond the 700 cubic meters is completely illegal timber. This the biggest wrong,” said Sokha.
Later, at 3:30am yesterday, Stung Treng military police confiscated three homemade tractors loaded with luxury Neang Nuon wood. Stung Treng military police chief Leng Vandy said the wood was bound for Laos and the suspects fled during the seizure.
Following the seizure, the wood was transferred to security office 747, before being passed on to the Forestry Administration. Security office chief Khan Sikheng said the confiscated wood was not of high quality.
Stung Treng deputy chief of Forestry Administration You Dong yesterday denied that the Laotian border has a timber-smuggling problem.
“There is no smuggling to Laos,” said Dong. “This is just a single case that was stopped by the military police.”