Authorities are searching for a military police official in Kompong Speu province after finding a large truck packed with luxury-grade wood lacking a permit next to his house on Sunday.
Chbar Morn district military police commander Thy Chhay said authorities were tipped off to a warehouse next to the home of Chheng Long, a deputy chief of staff for the provincial military police, after stopping a truck in the district on Saturday transporting high-value Thnong logs without the requisite permit.
“The driver told us he had brought the wood from a warehouse belonging to Mr. Chheng Long,” Mr. Chhay said.
He said military police watched the warehouse overnight and obtained a court warrant on Sunday morning to inspect it. They found another large truck inside also packed with Thnong logs, but Mr. Long was nowhere to be seen.
“Mr. Chheng Long escaped and we are now looking for him.”
He said that both trucks were seized and that authorities were still measuring the volume of wood. Photographs of the truck found inside the warehouse published by local media show several cubic meters of wood in the hold. Thnong is among the most valuable timber species in Cambodia, fetching thousands of dollars per cubic meter.
Provincial military police commander Chou Sarun declined to comment, referring questions to his deputy, Chin Da.
“I have received information from my subordinates that the warehouse belongs to Chheng Long, but I am not certain,” the deputy said, declining further comment.
Mr. Long, a lieutenant colonel, could not be reached. Eng Hy, spokesman for the National Military Police, said he was not aware of the incident.
While allegations of officials’ involvement in illegal logging have long undermined claims that the government is seeking to curb the practice, the participation of a senior military police official would be particularly embarrassing. The military police were put in charge of a crackdown on eastern Cambodia’s illegal timber trade in January last year, which they claim has been a success despite no arrests directly related to tens of thousands of cubic meters of seized illegal timber.