Soldiers Released by Authorities After Arrest for Hauling Wood

Authorities in Pursat province’s Krakor district on Tuesday arrested two soldiers caught transporting a haul of illegally logged luxury wood in a military truck, but later released the pair back to their Phnom Penh-based military unit, officials said.

District police chief Em Run said authorities were tipped off about the shipment of valuable Thnong wood by an official in neighboring Phnom Kravanh district, and stopped the truck on National Road 5 as soon as it crossed the district border at about 6:30 a.m.

“We stopped the truck and arrested two people, soldiers from Transportation Brigade 99,” Mr. Run said, adding that the truck also belonged to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces unit, which is based near Phnom Penh International Airport.

“It was a military truck that was previously used to transport student land-titling volunteers,” he said.

Mr. Run said that immediately following the operation—which was carried out by district police, military police and Forestry Administration officials—the truck and soldiers were turned over to the Forestry Administration’s Krakor division.

However, division chief Pol Chantha said his officials subsequently released the two soldiers—whom he identified as Pol Sothea and An Rem—back to their brigade in the afternoon, also returning the truck.

“We sent the truck and people back to their unit, but we confiscated the timber and are keeping it at the [Pursat] forestry cantonment,” Mr. Chantha said, adding that the wood had not yet been measured or weighed.

A cubic meter of Thnong wood can fetch hundreds of dollars.

Asked why the two men had been freed, Mr. Chantha said only that the decision was made by “the boss,” whom he refused to identify.

Provincial military police commander Kheng Tito confirmed that his forces were involved in the seizure of the truck and the soldiers’ initial arrest, but said he did not know that the men had been released.

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