As much as 10 cubic meters of illegally cut timber has disappeared from a police officer’s home in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadaw district, human rights workers said yesterday, accusing forestry officials of responding too late to a complaint.
Adhoc provincial coordinator Pen Bonnar said yesterday that Jarai community forest villagers and Adhoc staff found dozens of planks of timber hidden in a home belonging to a Lumchor commune policeman on Friday. But, Mr Bonnar added, the timber was transported away by two cars before forestry officials arrived at the scene to investigate.
Mr Bonnar claimed the illegally cut timber had been smuggled across the border into Vietnam, because of “ineffective law enforcement.”
“The forest in Ratanakkiri will be gone if such illicit activities are allowed to exist,” Mr Bonnar said.
Adhoc investigator Chhay Thy, who witnessed the transportation of the timber away from the policeman’s house, said yesterday that he was followed by two men on a motorbike on Friday while he was on his way to his home in Kong Yu village, about 7 km from Lumchor commune’s In village, where the timber was hidden.
“I think that their action is to make me afraid,” Mr Thy said, adding that one of the two men on the motorbike drove a car and parked near his farm on Saturday, which he interpreted as a threat.
Ratanakkiri Provincial Forestry Administration Chief You Kanvimean said that he and other officials had failed to find any timber at the alleged hiding place, identified by Adhoc.
“When we arrived at the place, we found no timbers at the home, except about half of a cubic meter in a cashew plantation nearby,” Mr Kanvimean said, noting that the information given by Adhoc was unsubstantiated.
O’Yadaw district police chief Ma Vichet denied that Mr Thy was threatened because of his job.
Mr Vichet said that he would investigate the case if his officers were found to be involved in the illegal-timber business. He added that should they be found to be involved, they would be asked to sign a promise not to do so anymore, or face disciplinary action.
“If [policemen] are involved in the timber business, please find evidence,” Mr Vichet added.