Authorities in Tbong Khmum province seized more than 1,900 pieces of rosewood from a truck whose drivers were attempting to smuggle the illicit haul out of the province on Monday night, officials said Wednesday.
A total 9.3 cubic meters of the luxury-grade timber was confiscated during an operation on National Road 71 in Tbong Khmum district involving local Forestry Administration officials and more than 20 military police, according to provincial Forestry Administration chief Ngy Virak.
“Our forces, armed with guns, blocked the road and prepared to stop the truck, but the truck ran off the road and got stuck in the mud as it was trying to escape,” Mr. Virak said.
“I could not see exactly how many people were in the truck, but they began to draw their guns against our authorities and then escaped on foot into the forest when they realized they were outnumbered,” he said.
Mr. Virak said the truck had been tailed by a second vehicle—likely serving as added protection—but sped away before military police could apprehend its occupants.
“We believe that the truck was transporting the wood from Kompong Cham province toward Phnom Penh via the Kizuna Bridge, but we do not yet know who owns the wood,” he said, adding that the wood was being kept at the Forestry Administration’s office in Tonle Bit commune.
Mr. Virak denied local media reports that two military officials in Preah Vihear province and a military police official in Kompong Thom province were involved in the case.
Tbong Khmum provincial governor Prach Chan said he was aware of the operation Monday night but did not know who owned the luxury wood.
“I also received information that some officials in Preah Vihear province may have been involved with the rosewood, but I am not sure if those officials were really involved,” Mr. Chan said.