Military police said they arrested a well-known timber trafficker in Stung Treng province on Thursday after she and a group of stick-wielding thugs attempted to retrieve a pile of wood officers had seized a day earlier.
However, the local forestry officials who military police said she was handed over to, denied that she had been transferred to them.
Heng Samneang, better known as Yeay Proeung, shot to national notoriety last month after a video was posted online in which she criticized local journalists for ratting her out to authorities despite accepting her bribes to keep quiet. “All journalists are witnesses for my business because they receive money from me,” she told a group of reporters.
Despite the recorded confession, Ms. Samneang continued to remain free.
National military police spokesman Eng Hy said she was finally arrested on Thursday morning at the Forestry Administration’s O’pang Moan office in Siem Bok district. He said she and seven men showed up at 4 a.m. demanding to remove some of the illegally logged timber that provincial military police had found on a nearby rubber plantation, confronting the two military police officers guarding the pile.
“Yeay Proeung and her seven workers got out of two vehicles and tried to fight with our military police, and one of them [an officer] shot one time in the air to disperse them,” he said. The workers “ran away and we arrested only Yeay Proeung at the scene.”
Contacted on Thursday just before noon, Cheat Veasna, Stung Treng’s deputy military police chief, said Ms. Samneang had been placed in the care of the Forestry Administration’s O’pang Moan triage office at about 9 a.m., but declined to comment further.
However, when contacted at about 3 p.m., the head of the triage, Sar Vuthy, said his staff had not seen Ms. Samneang and did not know where she was.
“Yeay Proeung was arrested this morning, but I don’t know where she is being detained. I think that woman is now in the custody of the provincial military police,” he said.
Tun Yoeut, a deputy prosecutor for the provincial court, said she had heard of Ms. Samneang’s arrest, but did not know her whereabouts as she had not been sent to court.
Neither Brigadier General Hy nor Mr. Veasna could be reached later in the day.
Provincial military police chief Ieng Vandy declined to comment. Neither provincial nor national level Forestry Administration officials could be reached.
A man who answered Ms. Samneang’s telephone on Thursday afternoon identified himself as her nephew, Prak Bunna. He confirmed his aunt’s arrest, but said he did not know if the military police’s accusations were true.
“I heard Yeay Proeng is being detained at provincial military police headquarters,” he said.
Last month, Mr. Vandy, the provincial military police chief, said authorities had recently stopped five of Ms. Samneang’s wood-laden trucks from crossing into Vietnam at night. Also last month, Forestry Administration officials said her Siem Bok district warehouse had been raided and she was under investigation.