Police and Forestry Administration officials in Banteay Meanchey province confiscated more than 120 pieces of illegally logged luxury-grade wood in two separate operations on Tuesday and Wednesday, officials said Thursday.
In one case, authorities on Wednesday found 75 pieces of beng and thnong wood inside a private home in Mongkol Borei district after chasing down a truck they suspected of smuggling produce, said Chea Phally, chief of the Forestry Administration’s Banteay Meanchey cantonment.
Mr. Phally said police grew suspicious of the truck because its bed was fully covered and followed it to the house, where they found the wood.
“We asked the house owner why the wood was in his house and he told us he was keeping it to build another house,” he said.
Mr. Phally claimed to have forgotten the identity of the owner but said the administration was in the midst of deciding how much of a fine to levy against him.
Provincial economic police chief Chap Sopharith, who joined the operation and also claimed to have forgotten the homeowner’s identity, said the wood and the truck were being held at provincial police headquarters and that the owner would be called in for more questioning.
In a separate case on Tuesday, provincial police found 52 pieces of especially rare kranhung, or rosewood, inside a truck after receiving a tip that it might be ferrying illegally logged timber, Mr. Sopharith said.
“We did not arrest the truck driver during the operation because he escaped after our authorities ordered him to stop. The truck and the wood are now being kept at the provincial police station,” he said.
Mr. Sopharith said his officers were also searching for the identity of the truck’s owner.
Mr. Phally said he was upset with the police for not including the Forestry Administration in Tuesday’s operation and claimed they had even violated the country’s Forestry Law by doing so.
He said he felt powerless to do anything about it, however.
“We are small officials and we cannot oppose the decision of the prosecutor,” Mr. Phally said.
Mr. Sopharith said his officers were simply following orders from provincial prosecutor Phan Vanroath in Tuesday’s operation. Mr. Vanroath could not be reached for comment.