More than 20 police and military police in Mondolkiri province surrounded the home of a brigadier general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) on Saturday after receiving reports that he was hiding luxury wood on his property.
Provincial police chief Nhem Vanny said that he ordered police to surround the house of Brigadier General Chhit Meng Sreng, chief of the provincial RCAF unit, after local residents reported seeing trucks transporting illegal luxury wood through a rubber plantation behind the residence.
“I immediately contacted the provincial court by telephone and asked for a warrant…to check Mr. Meng Sreng’s house after people reported to our forces that they have seen trucks transporting wood to his house,” Mr. Vanny said.
Accompanied by deputy provincial prosecutor So Sovichea, police found seven pieces of luxury wood in Mr. Meng Sreng’s home in Keo Seima district’s Sre Khtum commune and two more in his car, according to Mr. Vanny.
Another force of more than 50 police and military police was deployed Sunday to search for additional illegal timber in Mr. Meng Sreng’s 5-hectare rubber plantation, according to Mr. Vanny.
Muy Ann, deputy provincial police chief, said that police found 48 pieces of luxury wood in the rubber plantation, adding that the confiscated timber is being kept at the district forestry administration office.
“We do not know yet whether Mr. Meng Sreng will face arrest for this because that is the duty of the court,” Mr. Ann said.
Mr. Sovichea confirmed that planks of luxury wood, measuring 13 cm in diameter and 1.2 meters long, were recovered from Mr. Meng Sreng’s property.
“The house owner [Mr. Meng Sreng] told us that the wood belonged to his younger brother who was storing it there until he built a new house,” Mr. Sovichea said.
“We have no plan to arrest Mr. Meng Sreng yet because experts are working on the case,” he added.
Sok Rotha, Mondolkiri provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that if the police operation was actually aimed at curbing illegal logging, arrests must be made in the case.
“I think the authorities are conspiring with businesspeople because they confiscated the wood but have yet to arrest the owner,” he said.