‘Escaped’ alleged timber trader possessed 378 logs

Source: Phnom Penh Post

timber-trade

Officials stand atop some of the hundreds of pieces of timber seized from prominent military official Choeung Theng’s warehouse in Kampong Speu province last week. GRK

Authorities in Kampong Speu on Friday finished measuring a significant timber haul at a warehouse allegedly belonging to a Military Region 3 army officer, according to Oral District Governor Bun Vichet, though authorities declined to offer details on his whereabouts yesterday.

The owners of the warehouse, which was raided last Tuesday, were identified on the military police’s Facebook page as military officer Choeung Theng and his wife, Kou Sokhoeun. The pair are reported to have stored a total of 378 logs at the site, which were officially confiscated on Friday and moved to the nearby Samrong Tong district Forestry Administration office.

“The authorities did not see Choeung Theng there and the warehouse was closed,” District Governor Vichet said yesterday, before referring questions to deputy provincial prosecutor Seu Longdy, who could not be reached.

Theng has been identified as an illicit timber trader multiple times in the past two years, and was most recently arrested in June when a bridge collapsed under the weight of the wooden cargo of a truck allegedly belonging to him. It was unclear yesterday how that case was resolved.

Chea Hean, director of conservation NGO Natural Resources and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, last week claimed that Theng fled to Thailand shortly after Tuesday’s raid, although military police and Forestry Administration officials have declined to comment on the assertion.

Yesterday, Hean disputed the official figures for the amount of wood found at Theng’s warehouse. Officials have said that they uncovered nearly 60 cubic metres of timber, but Hean said that more than 100 cubic metres had been there on Tuesday, with the difference since making its way to Vietnam.

Provincial Forestry Administration officer Chey Ratha declined to comment on the accusation, while national spokesman for the military police Eng Hy said he was unaware of the case.

Meanwhile, military police and Forestry Administration officials in Preah Vihear’s Kulen district confiscated a total of 121 logs of high-end timber and 83 pieces of furniture from three sawmills on Friday.

District Governor Pang Yiet said yesterday that no one was arrested in the raids as the owners had not been present.

He described the sawmills as “family scale” operations, noting that he was aware of others in his district.

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