Confiscated Wood Leaves Officials Wondering

Preah Vihear provincial officials said they allowed a shipment of confiscated luxury wood to leave the province Friday after the men transporting it claimed it belonged to the Forestry Department, though they are wondering where the haul is now.

Both police and villagers stopped the drivers of a four-truck convoy carrying 10 cubic meters of the highly-prized beng species in Cheb district’s Cheb II commune on Friday evening, deputy provincial police chief Soum Bopha Rath said.

“They said this wood had permission from the Forestry Ad­ministration. I haven’t seen the letter [of permission] yet, and I don’t know where the wood went after it left Preah Vihear,” he said.

Although uncertain over the whereabouts of the confiscated wood, Soum Bopha Rath said he suspected the timber may have been bound for Sihanoukville as most of the illegally logged timber in Preah Vihear was ultimately shipped abroad from the seaport.

Provincial Forestry Admini­stration Director Pol Khamdare said Monday that he wasn’t sure of the shipment’s ultimate destination, but Forestry Administration Director Ty Sokhun had ordered that the wood be confiscated and sent to Phnom Penh.

“I don’t know exactly about the wood after it was transported from Preah Vihear,” he said.

Ty Sokhun could not be reached Monday, but Forestry Admini­stration spokesman Thun Sarath said the wood is not missing.

The haul is on its way to a museum being constructed at the Phnom Tamao Zoo in Takeo province, Thun Sarath said.

“The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishers will prepare the exhibition of the wood so it cannot be missing,” he said.

The Agriculture Ministry said in September that it had authorized the harvest of an unspecified amount of luxury-grade wood species for the construction of the museum and its exhibits.

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