Luxury-Wood Chase Leaves Innocent Teen Injured

Authorities in Siem Reap province are searching for the driver of a Toyota SUV who hit and seriously injured a teenager on a motorbike Wednesday after speeding through a roadblock while escorting another vehicle believed to have been smuggling luxury wood, officials said Thursday.

Chea Kimsoth, chief of the Forestry Administration’s Siem Reap cantonment, said his officials set up a roadblock on National Road 67 in Banteay Srei district on Wednesday after receiving word from military police in Preah Vihear province that a Toyota Camry transporting a haul of illegally logged rosewood was heading their way, followed closely by a Toyota Highlander.

“In the morning, we got a report from military police…telling us to stop one of two vehicles [the Camry] suspected of trafficking rosewood that had escaped from them,” Mr. Kimsoth said.

“When [the Camry] arrived at our barricade, they did not stop to be inspected,” he said, adding that both cars plowed through the roadblock and continued on at high speed.

Mr. Kimsoth said Forestry Administration officials and local police gave chase for about 10 km before the Highlander sideswiped an oncoming motorbike, sending its driver sprawling.

“The Highlander SUV crashed into the left side of the motorbike, causing a man to break his right femur and right arm,” said district traffic police chief Hoeul Sarem, identifying the victim as Lay Hieng, 17.

Mr. Sarem said police stopped to check on the injured rider, allowing both vehicles to escape.

“They sped away and we could not catch them,” he said.

The Highlander, however, was found abandoned in the forest a further 10 km down the road, Mr. Sarem said. No wood was discovered in the car and the driver had fled on foot, he added.

Mong Bun Lim, chief of the Forestry Administration’s Banteay Srei division, said the Highlander was impounded at the division’s headquarters.

“We are still investigating to find the owner of both vehicles,” he added.

District police chief Muoy Norn said Mr. Hieng was taken to the provincial referral hospital, where he is being treated for his injuries.

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