Who Owns the 2,949 Logs Found by a Government Task Force?

The government’s anti-logging task force on Monday confiscated nearly 3,000 logs stashed in a forest clearing in Mondolkiri province, officials said on Tuesday.

The owner of the 2,949 pieces of second-grade timber—Khlong, Tbeng and Trach—is unknown, said Eng Hy, spokesman for the National Military Police, which is heading the task force.

The wood had likely been left in the clearing in Koh Nhek district by smugglers hoping to transport it across the border to Vietnam, said district police chief Klout Sokhea.

There are no nearby economic land concessions and the nearest border checkpoint is several kilometers away, he said.

Photographs of the scene posted to the online Fresh News service show police posing atop gray logs nearly half a meter in diameter and several meters long, strewn over a swath of grassy land in Nang Khylik commune.

“We will keep the logs there and order military police to guard them,” Brigadier General Hy said. “Then we will send a report to the provincial court to have them decide what to do with the logs.”

The general declined to say how military police found the timber. “We do not need to tell you,” he said.

Sarou Rathana, deputy chief of the Forestry Administration’s Mondolkiri cantonment, said the wood was now the responsibility of the provincial environment department.

“We are not in charge of the wood anymore,” he said.

Environment officials could not be reached.

The operation was the latest in a series of seizures by the task force—established by Prime Minister Hun Sen in January—which has confiscated tens of thousands of cubic meters of wood, but apparently made no arrests.

“They have not caught or arrested a single person yet,” said Sok Ratha, coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Mondolkiri.

(Additional reporting by Aisha Down)

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