Stung Treng provincial police are searching for two men accused of transporting illegally logged luxury wood and causing the death of two men after crashing into their motorbike while eluding authorities, provincial police chief Deab Chanthy said yesterday.
According to police, San Vuthea and Oum Soksan were fleeing police Monday night on National Road 7 outside of Stung Treng city when their car collided head on with the motorbike, killing motorcycle driver Chek Kea, 23, and his passenger Sok Nhel, 27.
“The car was speeding since they had smuggled the Kra Nhuung timber and escaped from the police,” Mr Chanthy said. “So the driver lost control and hit two men who were driving a motorbike from the opposite direction and died instantly.”
He said the two suspects worked as reporters for two little-known, Khmer-language newspapers and escaped on foot from the scene of the wreck before police arrived. Police found less than a cubic meter of Kra Nhuung timber in the car.
“According to witnesses, the perpetrators are journalists,” Mr Chanthy stated. “We have seen Oum Soksan’s mission letter, which was signed by Thong Vanna, the publisher of the Cholana Niset newspaper, ordering him to work around the country.” Both Mr Vanna and the publisher of Angkor Kampuchea newspaper, Mr Vuthea’s employer, were unavailable for comment.
Provincial Adhoc coordinator Chhay Reth said timber smuggling is prevalent in Stung Treng and neighboring Ratanakkiri province. “Their actions are against the forestry law and against their journalistic ethic, which says journalists should report about wood smuggling rather than participate,” he said.