Police in Ratanakkiri province say they are investigating the origin of a pile of first grade logs stashed along a road built by and leading out of a Vietnamese-owned rubber plantation that has long been the target of illegal logging accusations.
Noeu Dara, chief of the provincial police’s economic crimes bureau, said his officers were told about the timber on Sunday and found 116 pieces of Sokrom piled up next to the dirt road—which connects the Rama Khmer plantation to the Vietnam border—later that day.
The plantation is known to locals as Company 72, the Vietnamese military unit whose commander chairs the company that owns it.
“The logs were not found on Company 72 land, but the wood was piled up by the road that belongs to the company,” Mr. Dara said on Tuesday.
He said the wood was likely destined for Vietnam by way of the border checkpoint the road leads to, and that his officers would team up with the local Forestry Administration unit to investigate its provenance.
“It’s not clear whether they transported the wood from Company 72 in an attempt to export it to Vietnam, but it was probably logged in a nearby community forest in Sous village,” he said. “It’s difficult to conclude that Company 72 is involved with the wood because it was piled up far away, about 30 km from the company’s land.”
Neither the Forestry Administration officials nor representatives of Rama Khmer could be reached on Tuesday.
The export of unprocessed logs has been banned for years, and government officials say all timber exports from eastern Cambodia to Vietnam have virtually stopped since a special task force was established in January to root out the region’s rampant illegal logging trade.
However, Vietnamese customs data released by the NGO Forestry Trends corroborates claims by Cambodian residents along the border that thousands of cubic meters of timber are continuing to get through.
Ethnic minority communities in Ratanakkiri have accused Rama Khmer of being a prime driver of that trade for the past several years.
pheap@cambodiadaily.com
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