After more than a week traveling along remote forest trails in eastern Mondolkiri province, police and forestry officials transporting 30 large pieces of valuable timber seized from Vietnamese loggers earlier this month are expected to reach the end of their 120-km journey today, an official said.
On December 20, border police and Forestry Administration officials stationed in the Mondolkiri Protected Forest came across a group of at least five Vietnamese loggers attempting to move a haul of luxury- and first-grade wood across the border using tractors, according to Keo Sopheak, deputy chief of the Forestry Administration’s Mondolkiri cantonment.
“The Vietnamese tractor drivers escaped from our forces back into their country, about 100 meters from the border, so we couldn’t arrest them,” Mr. Sopheak said on Monday.
“We seized five tractors with 30 big pieces of wood in [Koh Nhek district’s] Nang Khylik commune,” he said, adding that the wood—from rare trees illegally logged in the Mondolkiri Protected Forest, including Sokrom and Thnong—was now the property of Cambodian authorities.
“Vietnamese people are often sneaking over the border to cut wood in the protected forest because the road on the Vietnamese side is very close,” he said. This allows loggers to quickly and easily cross into Cambodia and return home before authorities can apprehend them, he explained.
Mr. Sopheak said the team that seized the wood had made use of the loggers’ tractors to transport it back to the capital of Koh Nhek district—where his cantonment’s headquarters are located—via remnants of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but that the journey had been arduous.
“From December 20 until now, we have been driving the wood along old dirt roads built by the Vietnamese during the war,” he said. “But the remote nature of the area, and the weight of the wood, means the process has been very difficult.
“One of the tires exploded due to the heavy weight, and tomorrow, we have one final river to cross before we can deposit the wood at our office.”