Police Chief Questioned About Smuggling Rosewood

A provincial police officer appeared for questioning at the Pailin Provincial Court on Tuesday after military police, led by a local wildlife NGO founded by U.S. actress Angelina Jolie, caught him transporting more than 177 kg of illegally logged rosewood on Sunday.

Sor Phalla was arrested at 4 p.m. Sunday in Pailin City while driving his Toyota Camry, which was laden with expensive timber.

Sieng Vandorn, deputy provincial military police chief, said six of his officers were deployed following a tip-off from officials at the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation (MJP), which provides law enforcement support and wildlife monitoring.

The foundation, which is based in Battambang province’s Samlot district, called upon the officials it works with to pursue Mr. Phalla.

“After we got information from local villagers we called the force including environment officials, military police and police to follow the car,” said Chan Socheat, deputy supervisor of law enforcement at MJP.

Three police cars pursued Mr. Phalla to Bavel district, on the border of Battambang province, and ordered him to stop, said Mr. Socheat. But he said the suspect refused.

“We used three cars to follow his car in order for him to stop and check his vehicle but he refused,” Mr. Socheat said. “When he saw our force he quickly drove onto the rural road into Bavel district.”

A high-speed chase ensued which saw the suspect force one police car off the road and into a lake, causing minor injuries to the officials inside the vehicle.

Following a failed attempt to form a roadblock, police laid down a spike strip in the middle of the road, which ultimately flattened Mr. Phalla’s tires.

“About an hour after we could not stop the suspect’s car so we put out nails with a board on the road to puncture the car’s tires,” Mr. Socheat said.

Chet Vanny, a deputy provincial police chief, said that Mr. Phalla was rarely seen at work even before he was detained this week.

“Before he worked at the provincial police office, but now I don’t know,” he said. “Let me check again.”

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