One Dead, 1 Flees in Wood Smuggling Accidents

Police in Kratie province say they are searching for the driver of a truck who had been transporting illegally logged timber through Snuol district early Saturday morning when it overturned and burst into flames.

District police chief Chan Sokim said the truck had been overloaded with about 20 cubic meters of first-grade Sokrom timber when it struck the guardrail on a bridge on National Road 7 at about 1 a.m. and flipped over, caught fire and burned away about 10 percent of the wood.

Though the driver had fled the scene by the time authorities arrived and there were no known witnesses, Mr. Sokim said he suspected that the driver had been drowsy when the accident occurred.

“The truck collided with the bridge before it overturned,” he said. “The accident occurred because the driver was sleepy while driving and because the truck was heavy with timber.”

He said police were searching for the driver, along with the owner of the truck and its illicit cargo.

In a separate incident, a 22-year-old man died instantly when he drove a Toyota Camry packed with illegally logged wood into the concrete wall of the Pailin provincial tax department’s headquarters on Friday evening, according to Lim Veasna, Pailin City police chief.

“At about 9 p.m. on Friday night, that guy was speeding and crashed into the concrete wall and died,” he said. “The car was full of Thnong timber.”

Mr. Veasna identified the dead man as Rith Sang Thorng, from Battambang province, and said that the car and luxury-grade wood were taken to the Forestry Administration’s Pailin division headquarters.

Provincial police chief Chea Chandin said the Toyota was being chased by two other cars before it crashed, according to witnesses.

“The two cars did not belong to the police. Now we are searching for the drivers of the chase cars,” he said. “No one saw their number plates because it was dark and raining heavily.”

The head of the Forestry Administration’s Pailin division, Chou Chandararith, could not be reached for comment.

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