Charges Mount Against Man Accused of Smuggling Wood

The Mondolkiri Provincial Court on Thursday added a provisional timber smuggling charge to the growing list of crimes allegedly committed by former military police officer Sou Marith, who was arrested on Wednesday after evading authorities for months.

Mr. Marith was arrested after police used a roadblock to stop his Lexus SUV following a chase along National Road 76. The officers had attempted to flag down the vehicle when they noticed it was riding suspiciously low, as though it were carrying an unusually heavy load, and found eight pieces of luxury-grade Thnong wood inside. Three carpenters riding in the SUV with Mr. Marith were also arrested.

On Thursday, deputy court prosecutor So Sovichea said all four had been provisionally charged. “After questioning them, I charged the suspects with the illegal transport of forest products,” he said.

He said he knew nothing about the other charges facing Mr. Marith.

In February, Mr. Marith allegedly shot at military police and forestry officials who had followed a timber-laden car to his home, but managed to escape. Within days, he was provisionally charged in absentia with the illegal use of a weapon.

On Thursday, deputy court prosecutor Chea Sovantheth, who is handling that case, said the weapons charge still stood. He said Mr. Marith had three outstanding arrest warrants when he was apprehended but did not know what the other two were for.

In 2014, Mr. Marith allegedly held a pistol to the head of Keo Seima district governor Sin Vanvuth in an attempt to free the drivers of an SUV the governor had helped pull over for transporting illegally sourced luxury wood.

Timber smuggling carries only a fine. Weapons charges come with mandatory prison terms.

Chuy Sokheang, head of the Forestry Administration’s Mondolkiri cantonment, who first questioned the four men after their arrest on Wednesday, said on Thursday that he had transferred them to provisional detention at the provincial prison after they were charged.

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