Authorities in Pursat province say they are investigating the cause of a weekend fire that destroyed more than 20 vehicles confiscated from illegal loggers over the past four years, which were due to be auctioned off next month.
Thorn Bunthet, head of the Forestry Administration’s Kravanh division in Phnom Kravanh district, said on Monday that the vehicles, mostly pickup trucks and cars, were on the division’s property when a fire that started in the surrounding forest reached them at about 4 p.m. on Sunday.
“We used two water trucks from provincial police headquarters to stop the fire at about 8:30 p.m. and 22 vehicles that we had confiscated from criminals were completely destroyed,” he said, adding that five vehicles were untouched by the flames.
“We don’t know where the fire came from, but we think the blaze started in the nearby forest while our officials were in the forest looking for loggers,” he said.
Mr. Bunthet said they managed to put out the fire before it reached the division office, where roughly 20 cubic meters of confiscated luxury-grade timber were stored.
He said officials were investigating the cause of the fire, but cast doubt on the possibility that it was set deliberately to prevent the vehicles—seized between 2012 and now—from being used as evidence in a court case.
District governor So Sarhong said he did not know how the fire started, either.
“I don’t know the cause of the fire, but my police reported that the fire started in the forest,” he said.
The fire in the western province follows several mysterious fires that have destroyed hundreds of logs on rubber plantations in the country’s east under investigation by a government task force targeting illegal timber stocks. Although local authorities suspect arson in some cases, no arrests have been made.