Seven Vietnamese nationals and two Cambodians were charged on Thursday with illegally logging valuable wood in the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary by the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court.
The Vietnamese men were charged with crossing the border illegally, using a chainsaw without a permit and collecting forest products, while the two Cambodians were charged with forest products collection, Prak Soeun, the court’s deputy chief of administration, said on Thursday.
“The nine suspects were charged today by Investigating Judge Yin Pesith and they were sent to the provincial prison for provisional detention,” he
Deputy provincial police chief Chea Bunthoeun said on Thursday that the nine were arrested on Monday after local authorities, acting on a tip from villagers, stormed the location inside Lumphat district’s Seda commune, where the men were cutting Sokrom wood with chainsaws.
“Our forces surrounded the loggers and we arrested seven Vietnamese people and two Khmer villagers, but the other Vietnamese ran away into the forest,” he said.
The two Cambodians claimed to merely be drivers for the Vietnamese, he said, but authorities believed they were involved in the trade.
Authorities seized eight chainsaws, a homemade truck belonging to the Cambodian villagers and two motorbikes belonging to the Vietnamese nationals as evidence, while 10 logs of the first-grade Sokrom wood were handed over to the provincial environmental department.
In a separate case, authorities arrested eight Vietnamese for logging in the same area on March 18, according to Mr. Bunthoeun, who said the loggers had been charged and were being held at the provincial court prison.
“All the Vietnamese told us that they entered Cambodia through a checkpoint in O’yadaw district, but they did not say who allowed them to cross the border,” he said. “I think that our Cambodian border officials opened the gate for the Vietnamese, and we are now investigating to find the truth of how they were able to enter Cambodia.”
Though Cambodian forestry officials claim to have all but eliminated timber sales to Vietnam as part of a crackdown that began last year, Vietnamese customs data from the U.S. NGO Forest Trends show the country imported 171,438 cubic meters of Cambodian-sawn wood last year.