Customs officers in Ratanakkiri province stopped four vehicles laden with luxury wood and briefly arrested 11 workers as their convoy attempted to cross into Vietnam at a border checkpoint in O’Yadaw district on Saturday night.
Preap Karat, customs unit chief at the Finance Ministry’s customs department, said his officials worked with military police to seize the three Toyota pickup trucks and a Toyota Camry driving on National Road 78.
“We stopped the four vehicles to check their cargo and found many pieces of Thnong wood inside,” he said, adding that they had received a tip from a “secret source” telling them that the vehicles were on their way.
Mr. Karat said the 11 arrested workers told officials that they did not know who owned the wood, as they had only been hired to transport it to Vietnam.
“A provincial court prosecutor released them on the same night because they didn’t know anything,” he said.
Mr. Karat said the four vehicles and the wood were being held at the Ratanakkiri provincial customs headquarters, adding that no one had come to customs to inquire about the seizure.
“I think no one has dared to come to us to discuss the wood because they are worried we will capture them and put them in jail, since this is the illegal timber business.”
Last week, customs officers stopped a truck with about 11 tons of rosewood as it attempted to enter Vietnam in Tbong Khmum province’s Memot district. Mr. Karat said nobody had come to claim that cargo, either.
“The truck and rosewood are still being kept at the provincial customs headquarters. But the court has already decided to confiscate the truck and rosewood as state property,” he said.