Police Say Angry Timber Traders Behind Forestry Office Murder

Three men were arrested on Wednesday after masked gunmen sprayed bullets through a Forestry Administration office in Kompong Chhnang province—killing one and injuring three—in what a police official said may have been a hit ordered by a disgruntled wood trader.

Two gunmen armed with an AK-47 assault rifle crept up on the office in Toek Phos district at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday and opened fire, killing forestry officer Sing Hak, 54, and injuring Ouk Non, 38, a deputy district military police commander, said Lim Virak, deputy provincial police chief. The two gunmen fled the scene on foot, he added.

Two men who lived next door to the office, Mao Sarath, 44, and Kim Lon, 62, were also struck by the barrage of bullets, he said.

The three suspects were being questioned by provincial military police, Mr. Virak said, referring further questions to provincial military police commander Meas Sovann, who could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Virak said he didn’t know why the shooting occurred, but acknowledged authorities’ “first conclusion is that this case might involve the business of transporting wood, while our other conclusion is that it could be about a love triangle.”

Commune chief Kong Sam Em, however, said he believed the case was ordered by a disgruntled wood trader who had become angered by officials preventing his overloaded trucks from crossing a nearby bridge.

“It’s hard to judge this case as to who did the shooting, but it’s not about robbery, not about a revenge case and it’s not about a love triangle either. It’s about a trader who hired other people to shoot these officers,” he said.

“I give this tip—it is not wrong, but I just do not dare explain.”

District police chief Kham Vibol said he collected 19 bullet casings at the scene.

“I don’t know how many of the bullets hit the victims,” Mr. Vibol said.

The three injured men were rushed to the provincial referral hospital, where they were recovering, Mr. Virak said.

This is the latest—and most extreme—attack on a forestry office in recent months. In March, dozens of masked farmers stormed a community forestry monitoring office in Mondolkiri province and razed it to the ground in what officials suspected was retaliation for being blocked from growing cassava in a protected area.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Kong Sam Em was a commune police chief.

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