Police and Forestry Administration officers confiscated more than two dozen pieces of rosewood being smuggled in the doors and seats of a car posing as a taxi and another 600 cubic meters of lesser first-grade luxury timber in a pair of separate operations on Tuesday.
In Banteay Meanchey province, police pulled over a Toyota Camry suspected of smuggling rosewood and found a total of 0.4 cubic meters of the luxury-grade timber—which is illegal to log—inside the seats and door panels, said Phann Phearum, deputy chief prosecutor at the provincial court.
He said the driver and his four passengers had been paid $30 each by an unknown person to give the car the appearance of a taxi, and that all had been taken into custody.
Mr. Phearum said the suspects had gone to unusual lengths to conceal their illicit cargo.
“These rosewood smugglers created a new tactic by hiding the wood in the car’s seats and four doors …and paying the passengers to travel with the rosewood to look like an ordinary taxi,” he said.
Much of the rosewood smuggled through Cambodia comes from Thailand, and at great risk to those who illegally log the trees.
So far this year, seven Cambodians have been shot dead by Thai soldiers while logging illegally, according to police, nearly half the number of such deaths in all of 2011.
In a separate incident, Forestry Administration officials in Kratie province’s Snuol district found 600 cubic meters of first-grade wood of varying species hidden in the jungle next to a tributary of the Prek Pao River, according to Prak Sambor, chief of administration in the district.
He said the wood was believed to have originated from a local wildlife sanctuary and an economic land concession in the district belonging to a firm he identified as Eastern Rubber Cambodia.
“Now, all of those first-grade logs are being protected by forestry officials in Snuol and will be collected and kept in one place, and we are continuing to search for the ringleaders who hired villagers to cut for them and for the owners,” he said.