A high-speed police chase across Stung Treng province early Monday morning led to the confiscation of more than 1.5 tons of rosewood, but only after an SUV plowed into a police truck blocking the road, with two suspects eventually fleeing on foot.
Police in Stung Treng said they were informed by their colleagues in Preah Vihear province to the west that two cars were speeding toward the Vietnamese border with a suspicious load of timber, but that the smugglers switched vehicles—moving the wood into a Toyota Highlander and a Toyota Camry—shortly after entering the province, complicating the operation.
“We were not able to stop them sooner, as they were driving at high speed and had changed vehicles to evade us,” said Phat Sophana, chief of the Stung Treng provincial police’s anti-economic crime bureau.
Mr. Sophana said his officers spotted the Toyotas at about 1:30 a.m. on National Road 9 near Stung Treng City and gave chase, pursuing the suspects through the provincial capital for about 30 minutes. At the opposite end of the city, he said, police had parked trucks at the junction with National Road 7.
“We shot twice into the air with a pistol when the driver of the first car did not slow down, and it crashed into a pickup truck,” he said.
The driver of the car—the Highlander—then fled into the forest on foot, evading all six officers manning the roadblock, he added.
The driver of the Camry cruised through the ruptured blockage and was forced off National Road 7 by police moments later, but also managed to run away, Mr. Sophana said.
Combined, he said, the cars were loaded with 93 pieces of illegally logged rosewood weighing 1,540 kg.
Chhoeun Tola, head of the Forestry Administration’s Stung Treng cantonment, said the wood was being held at the cantonment office. He said he was confident that authorities would catch the smugglers using three sets of license plates found inside each of the vehicles, all of which were registered with the Ministry of Transport.