Kampot RCAF Officer Arrested for Selling Seized Luxury Wood

A deputy provincial Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) commander was arrested Wednesday at his home in Kampot City on suspicion of selling illegal luxury wood he had confiscated during raids on illicit timber dealers, officials said Thursday.

Tith Kimseng, deputy chief of RCAF in Kampot province, was arrested at 12:30 p.m. at his house in Andoung Khmer commune, according to deputy provincial prosecutor Khan Sophal, who led an investigation into the deputy military commander alongside the provincial forestry administration and military police.

“We arrested him yesterday on suspicion of confiscating wood from dealers that he kept at his house and then sold on to other dealers without reporting his actions to court prosecutors or other upper-level authorities,” he said.

Mr. Sophal said the RCAF official was still being questioned Thursday and said, due to the ongoing investigation, that he could not reveal how much illegal wood Mr. Kimseng, who holds the rank of colonel, is suspected of confiscating or the value of wood he is believed to have sold.

“We acted after receiving reports from local people that he was involved with trafficking luxury wood but we are still investigating the case,” he said.

Mr. Sophal added that a search of Mr. Kimseng’s property uncovered 26 pieces measuring approximately 0.628 cubic meters each of first grade Dounchem Spong and luxury Thnong woods that he is believed to have confiscated in an unofficial raid in Toek Chhou district.

“We did not find a lot of wood at his house, but that is not important. What is important is where those pieces of wood came from and what he intended to do with it,” Mr. Sophal said, adding that Col. Kimseng would be sent to the provincial court after questioning.

Provincial RCAF commander Ung Vannarith on Thursday declined to comment on the arrest of his deputy, while Thuk Bunthorn, RCAF’s provincial chief of staff, said he did not know enough about the case to comment.

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