Authorities in Kratie province on Saturday night discovered nearly 90 pieces of luxury-grade wood stockpiled just outside the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) headquarters in Chhlong district, where they believe the timber was being staged for transport to Tbong Khmum province to the south, officials said Tuesday.
District Governor Som Sarith said local authorities accompanied police, military police and district Forestry Administration officials to the RCAF base in Chhlong commune late Saturday night, having been tipped off about the store of illegal wood.
“We found the wood in front of the district military headquarters at about 11 p.m. and our team transported it on the same night to…the district Forestry Administration [office],” Mr. Sarith said, adding that a total of 89 logs of Thnong wood were seized, each measuring between 3 to 4 meters in length and 25 to 30 centimeters in diameter—totaling 14 cubic meters.
Mr. Sarith said that the wood was likely ferried to the base by boat along the Chhlong River and set to be transported to Tbong Khmum’s Dambe district that night. But since authorities arrived at the scene, he said, no one had come to pick it up.
“No one has contacted us or come to meet us to claim ownership of the wood, but it was piled in front of the military headquarters in preparation to be transported during the night,” he said.
Despite the wood’s location near the RCAF base, provincial Forestry Administration chief Soy Sarith said there was not enough evidence to point the finger at military officials.
“We don’t dare conclude that the wood belonged to the military …because we don’t have evidence to prove that they are involved,” he said.
Mr. Sarith said that shortly after authorities arrived at the scene, deputy district RCAF commander Prak Vanna showed up and claimed the wood belonged to a military police official named Heng Kunthea.
“Mr. Vanna came to the scene and told us that the wood belonged to Mr. Kunthea, but we don’t know who this person is,” he said.
National military police spokesman Kheng Tito said he was not familiar with the name Heng Kunthea.
Provincial court prosecutor Ty Sovinthal, who accompanied police and local officials to the base Saturday night, confirmed that Mr. Vanna arrived when the wood was being seized, but said he was only there to be helpful.
“I recognize that Mr. Vanna was [present] at the scene, but he came to help us and provided two…trucks to transport the wood,” he said.
Mr. Vanna could not be reached.