Authorities Confiscate Illegal Rare Wood; Smugglers Escape

Authorities in Mondolkiri province on Tuesday seized more than 80 pieces of luxury-grade thnong wood from two vehicles they chased down on National Road 76, but the smugglers managed to escape, officials said Wednesday.

O’Reang district military police chief So Samath said his officers joined forces with staff of the Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, through which Road 76 runs, in chasing down the car and van at about 10 a.m.

“Our police were suspicious of the vehicles and tried to stop them, but when we approached, [the drivers and passengers] ran away,” he said.

Kong Puthyra, deputy chief of the conservation area, said the two vehicles were carrying a total of 82 pieces of thnong, which are now being held at the park’s head office.

Mr. Puthyra said he was now trying to track down the vehicles’ owners.

“We are making a report accusing them of carrying wood without permission and we will send it to the provincial environment department so it can summon the vehicles’ owners,” Mr. Puthyra said. “If they don’t turn up…the court will take action.”

In a separate case in Mondolkiri, Pech Chreada district Governor Nguon Saran said his subordinates were still on the way to a remote site where some 3,000 logs, possibly illegally logged thnong, were discovered by locals Sunday. Mr. Saran said it was unclear whether the timber belonged to a Chinese-owned plantation in the area.

“The wood is in the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary and located on disputed land between the Dai Nam company and our villagers’ [property],” he said.

Mr. Saran said the area was still in dispute because the villagers had rejected the 1,405 hectares the company offered them to settle the matter.

Pou Chrei commune clerk Seang Sea said some of the villagers who reported the cache of wood were growing impatient with authorities.

“They said that if the authorities do not come to investigate, they will burn the wood,” he said.

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