Illegal Loggers Hard at Work On Mondolkiri Luxury Timber

Authorities in Mondolkiri province seized three vehicles packed with illegally logged luxury timber at separate locations inside the Snuol Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area in the space of two hours Saturday night but failed to apprehend any of the drivers.

Meak Vuthy, who manages the conservation area, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Administration, said the first vehicle, a Toyota Tundra pickup truck, was stopped at about 11 p.m. while driving down a dirt road in O’Reang district’s Sen Monorom commune by a team of park rangers and military police.

He said a Lexus SUV was stopped in the same commune at about midnight, and a Toyota Camry an hour later while driving in Keo Seima district on National Road 76, which links the area to Vietnam.

The three vehicles were packed with a total of 3 cubic meters of   luxury-grade Thnong wood, he said.

“We had about 10 officers hiding beside the road to catch them using three cars to block those vehicles. But we could not arrest the drivers because they ran and fled into the deep forest,” Mr. Vuthy said.

He said authorities have stepped up their patrols of the area now that the rainy season has ended, making once-waterlogged routes easier to traverse. And based on past experience, he said he suspected that the wood seized Saturday and Sunday had been logged by local villagers who sold it to middlemen.

“About the first two cases, we don’t know where they were transporting the timber to because we stopped them inside the forest. But in the last case we believe it was being transported to Vietnam because [the car] was heading toward the Vietnam border,” Mr. Vuthy said.

He said his rangers had seized “dozens” of vehicles loaded with illegally logged luxury wood and headed for Vietnam since the start of the year.

A report released earlier this year by the U.S.-based NGO Forest Trends found that most of the high-grade timber entering Vietnam from Cambodia through border checkpoints was being exported illegally.

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