Rosewood-Laden Military Trucks Stopped

A convoy of military vehicles loaded with illegally logged rosewood was stopped by police in Tbong Khmum province on Monday, according to officials, who were otherwise tight-lipped about the case.

“Police stopped the vehicles this morning in Memot district,” said deputy provincial police chief Chhem Kim Hong, referring further questions to Leng Chetra, chief of the provincial force’s anti-economic crime bureau, who declined to comment.

Memot district police chief Hun Kimhoeun said the convoy was not pulled over in his jurisdiction, but rather on National Road 7 in neighboring Ponhea Krek district. Ponhea Krek police chief Orm Monyvan, however, said he knew nothing about the case.

According to a report posted to the National Police website, the convoy was comprised of two cargo trucks led by car mounted with a siren.

“Tbong Khmum provincial police say that after they received information about the transport of the wood, police experts cooperated with relevant field units to stop the three military vehicles,” it said.

“Police officials have clarified that the three vehicles were found with many cubic meters of rosewood and were attempting to transport it to Vietnam,” the report said, adding that the cargo trucks belonged to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ Transport Brigade 99, commanded by Major General Hul Sam On.

Maj. Gen. Sam On could not be reached on Monday.

The National Police report did not say where or when the vehicles were stopped, whether any arrests were made, or exactly how much wood was found.

It did, however, suggest that the case was indicative of an ongoing trade in illegally sourced timber, facilitated by the collusion of authorities.

“Even amid a large-scale crackdown on the transportation and export of luxury wood, smuggling is still occurring, often because of the involvement of some officials,” it said.

In January, Prime Minister Hun Sen established a military police-led task force to track down illegal timber stocks in the country’s east, but the courts have not prosecuted anyone over the roughly 70,000 cubic meters of wood that have been seized.

In a speech earlier this month, however, Environment Minister Say Sam Al hailed the effort as a roaring success. “I can say here, today, at this hour, that the large-scale timber logging that we used to see is entirely ended,” he said.

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