Military Police Officers Arrested For Blocking Forestry Officials

Forestry Administration officials detained two military police officers and a third man on Tuesday for attempting to stop them from transporting a haul of illegally logged wood to their headquarters in Kratie City, officials said Sunday.

Try Sopheak, head of the Forestry Administration cantonment covering Kratie province, said his officials seized a Jeep loaded with luxurygrade Thnong wood in Chet Borei district on Tuesday evening after the driver abandoned the vehicle.

But as the officials were driving the haul to the cantonment’s office in Kratie City, he said, two cars abruptly drove in front of the Jeep and stopped, blocking the road.

“After that, the provincial court deputy prosecutor came to intervene and the Forestry Administration officials were able to bring the [Jeep] to our headquarters,” Mr. Sopheak said, adding that three men in the cars that blocked the road—two military police officers and another man—were arrested.

“We detained them because they prevented the Forestry Administration officials from transporting the wood,” he said. Now, he added, “the case is out of our hands because it is with the court prosecutor.”

Mr. Sopheak declined to name any of the suspects.

Deputy prosecutor Thuch Panhchak Santepheap, who helped clear the road for the Forestry Administration officials on Tuesday, said Sunday that the case had not yet arrived at the court but that he expected it would soon. Once he received the case, he said, “we will prepare the documents for provisional charges.”

Provincial military police officials could not be reached for comment.

The alleged involvement of military police in an attempt to obtain luxury wood is not unusual.

Police in neighboring Mondolkiri province claim that a group of seven armed military police officers forced local anti-economic crime police to free the drivers of four trucks stopped on August 1 for transporting illegally logged wood.

According to police, the drivers, before they were freed, said they had been hauling the wood for Keo Seima district military police commander Sak Saron, who has denied the claim.

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