Timber Trafficking Probe Shifts Focus From Officer to Daughter

Military police on Monday said a lieutenant colonel in the force who was under suspicion of timber trafficking only the day before was no longer a suspect and their attention had shifted instead to his daughter and her husband.

On Sunday, officials said they were searching for Chheng Long, a deputy chief of staff for the Kompong Speu provincial military police, after finding a large truck packed with unlicensed luxury timber inside a warehouse immediately beside his house that morning. They were led to the warehouse after seizing another loaded truck the day before. The driver told them that he had just come from the warehouse, which he said belonged to Mr. Long.

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A truck loaded with luxury wood is seized by authorities outside a warehouse next to the home of military police official Chheng Long on Sunday in Kompong Speu province. (Contributor)

On Monday, however, officials claimed that the warehouse, which is not separated from Mr. Long’s three-story mansion by any barrier, no longer belonged to the lieutenant colonel, though they refused to provide any evidence.

“The warehouse belongs to a daugher and son-in-law of Mr. Chheng Long and the couple escaped, but our authorities are looking for them,” said Eng Hy, spokesman for the National Military Police.

Mr. Hy identified the son-in-law as Sy Sar, but claimed to have forgotten the name of his wife. He refused to say what evidence authorities had that the warehouse did not belong to her father, and hung up on a reporter when asked if they had found Mr. Long since claiming on Sunday that he was at large.

Thy Chhay, military police commander of Chbar Mon district, claimed on Monday that Mr. Long used to own the warehouse, but now does not.

“The warehouse previously belonged to Chheng Long, but he transferred it to his daughter and son-in-law,” he said.

Mr. Chhay also failed to back up the claim with any evidence and referred additional questions to deputy provincial military police commander Chin Da.

“My boss wants to keep information secret because he doesn’t want it to spread,” Mr. Chhay said.

Mr. Da declined to comment, as did Ou Phat, the Kompong Speu Provincial Court deputy prosecutor who led the raid on the warehouse. Mr. Long could not be reached.

The trucks seized on Saturday and Sunday were both loaded with Thnong, one of the rarest timber species in Cambodia that sells for thousands of dollars per cubic meter.

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