After Raids, Police Hunt Owner of Forest Furniture Workshops

Authorities in Stung Treng province are searching for the owner of two furniture workshops that were raided and shut down on Wednesday for making wooden doors and shutters out of first-grade timber, officials said Thursday.

Thala Barivat district penal police chief Duong Hong said that about 20 officers from the provincial police’s anti-economic crime bu­reau raided the workshops with officials from the local Forestry Administration division.

However, Khai Sophal, a timber dealer and the owner of the workshops—which were hidden in the forest—escaped before authorities showed up, Mr. Hong said.

“He fled the scene before we arrived. We are looking for him,” he said. “We questioned 20 people involved in the operation, but we did not arrest them be­cause they are all just workers.”

Mr. Hong said that at least 50 window shutters and a number of doors, all made from first-grade Sokrom wood, were seized.

According to district police chief Sem Sitha, the workshops in Sam Ang commune only began operating a week ago, but had already served to exacerbate illegal logging in the area.

“We cracked down on them be-cause they were running illegal handicraft workshops and doing illegal logging in the area,” he said. “They were encouraging local people to cut trees and sell the wood to them.”

Va Sokha, deputy chief of the Forestry Administration’s Thala Barivat division, who led the raids on Wednesday, said Mr. Sophal’s whereabouts were unknown, adding that his officials were still inventorying the seized wood.

“We confiscated many pieces of Sokrom timber, but I’m not sure how many because we need to organize it all first,” he said.

Mr. Sokha said four table saws were also seized, and that all of the confiscated items were being held at his division’s headquarters.

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