Police from Takeo province came under fire in neighboring Kampot province early Sunday morning as they pursued a truck transporting a load of luxury wood while four other cars tried to protect the truck, according to officials, who said police managed to arrest just one suspect.
The chase began at about midnight on National Road 3 in Takeo’s Tram Kak district after local police were tipped off to the truck’s illicit cargo, according to Takeo provincial police chief Ouk Samnang.
“Our authorities tried to stop the truck to check it, but a group of people in two cars appeared and prevented our cars from overtaking the truck,” he said, adding that the escort cars rammed each side of the pursuing police car, prompting the officers to call for backup.
“We sent six [provincial] police officers…when local police radioed for help,” Mr. Samnang said.
The larger police force, in two cars, then followed the speeding truck into Kampot to the west and alerted their counterparts in the province to set up a roadblock as two more cars arrived to protect the truck in Angkor Chey district.
When the drivers of the truck and the other four cars pulled over suddenly, a passenger in one, a Mitsubishi Pajero SUV, opened fire on police with a handgun.
“They tried to stop us by shooting our…car, so we took action by shooting back, five or six times into the air and at the ground—trying to shoot out the tires,” he said, adding that the suspects then abandoned the truck and escaped in the smaller vehicles.
“The Pajero got a flat tire and we found it at a pagoda in Kampot province and arrested a man as he was trying to change the tire, but the other people had already run away,” he said, adding that no weapon was found on the man.
Mr. Samnang named the suspect as 26-year-old Kat Voeun, and said that police impounded the Pajero and the truck, and confiscated 8 cubic meters of luxury-grade wood. He said the truck had come from Kompong Speu province and was headed for Vietnam, but that he could not reveal more information about the case.
Kang Kimly, chief of the Forestry Administration’s Kampot cantonment, said that his officers had questioned Mr. Voeun.
“He said the wood was being transported to a furniture shop in Kampot,” he said, “But he just said that to avoid getting charged.”
“We will investigate and find the other people involved.”
Contacted later Monday evening, Mr. Kimly confirmed that more than 10 cubic meters of Thnong wood had been seized, and that Mr. Voeun would be sent to the Takeo Provincial Court today.
“So far, he has said that he did not know [the cars] were protecting the luxury wood; that his friend just brought him along.”