Military police in Kompong Speu province seized a truckload of illegally logged wood in the predawn hours of Wednesday morning but decided not to arrest a pair of soldiers who showed up hoping to take the timber off their hands in exchange for a bribe.
Tith Vannak, head of the provincial military police’s crimes office, said his officers spotted the truck heading down National Road 4 through Oral district at 12:10 a.m.
“We stopped the truck to check it and found the luxury wood,” he said. “The driver and two others, one dressed as a civilian and another in a military uniform, escaped.”
Mr. Vannak said military officers from Region 3 of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, Captain Van Vannak and Colonel Yoeung Sarin, then showed up in a Toyota Camry hoping to take the haul away.
“The two military officers were accompanied by six other soldiers carrying guns and told us that the wood belonged to their boss and asked to take it, but we did not let them because we were under orders from the provincial military police chief,” he said.
Instead of accusing the officers of colluding in the illicit logging of the wood, however, Mr. Vannak said his men let them go on the grounds that they were not the owners of the timber.
“We let the pair return home because they were not involved with the wood,” he said.
Contacted by telephone, Capt. Vannak admitted that he went to retrieve the wood for his superior, whom he refused to name.
“I realize that we were wrong because we didn’t have a permission letter to transport the wood,” he said. “We just wanted to compromise with the authorities by paying them some money to take the wood away, but they did not agree.”
Col. Sarin said he had merely accompanied Capt. Vannak and knew nothing about the wood.
Chut Vanny, an officer with the Forestry Administration’s Satork triage in Oral district, said the haul consisted of 98 pieces of luxury- and first-grade timber.