Police Exchange Gunfire Over Log Convoy

A shootout ensued Tuesday in Kampot province’s Chumkiri district when military police officers attempted to stop a police-escorted truck hauling illegally cut timber, police and district officials said Thursday.

At least two military policemen wanted to stop and inspect a small truck hauling tree trunks from luxury tree species, said Chumkiri district Governor Hem Pann. But a policeman was riding in the truck, he said.  “When the truck car­rying the timber refused to stop, a military policeman shot a few bullets into the air and the policeman shot back, also into the air,” he said.

In Chiva, deputy police chief for Kampot province, confirmed the encounter.

“About two policeman and several military policemen shot into the air over the transpor­tation of high-quality tree trunks,” he said.

But Kampot provincial military police Chief Pet Channara, denied that the dispute was over timber. He said military policemen shot into the air to stop the truck because there had been a spate of robberies in recent days.

“It is a trifling matter we al­ready resolved,” he said.

But a military policeman and a forestry official from Chumkiri district, who both asked not to be named, said the confrontation was over the transportation of illegal timber. The military policeman said Chumkiri district officers called officials in neighboring Chhuk district and told them to stop the truck, which was hidden in a village in the district, he said. “Mili­tary police confiscated three pie­ces of timber and two tree trunks in Chhuk district. The timber is being kept at the Kam­pot forestry office,” the forestry official said.

Logging has been illegal since Prime Minister Hun Sen im­posed a moratorium at the end of 2001, and luxury species, prized for use in furniture, have been pro­tected from logging for decades.

The luxury wood likely came from Bokor National Park be­cause it is difficult to find elsewhere in Kampot province, said Marcus Hardtke of forestry watchdog Global Witness, which investigates illegal logging around the country. “Like in other protected areas, the illegal trade of luxury timber is getting bigger and bigger,” he said.

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