Two Arrested as Illegal-Timber Dealer Escapes

Two men were arrested in Kompong Thom province on Tuesday after they drove their car to obstruct a team of officials in pursuit of a vehicle suspected of transporting illegally harvested luxury timber through Stung Sen City, police said.

Stung Sen deputy police chief Sou Chea said police and local Forestry Administration officials were giving chase to a minivan suspected of transporting a full load of rosewood along National Road 6 from Kratie province when another car slowed down in front of them, allowing the minivan to speed away.

He identified the two men in the car that blocked authorities as Yun Socheat, 22, and Heng Vicheat, 23.

“Police arrested them because both men tried to prevent the officials’ vehicles from chasing the dealer’s vehicle, which was transporting illegal timber,” Mr. Chea said Wednesday.

He said their car also bore fake license plates, and that the two men were being detained at the provincial police headquarters for questioning.

Say Nora, the deputy provincial prosecutor who led the operation to bust the timber traffickers, confirmed Mr. Chea’s account of the failed chase.

He said authorities had been tipped off about the minivan, as well as a second vehicle traveling with it for protection, but still managed to let the timber dealer escape. Mr. Nora said authorities were still searching for the minivan but did not know where it was now.

Rosewood is a protected species in Cambodia but remains highly prized for its dense, red grain and can fetch thousands of dollars per square meter.

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