A Toyota SUV and the load of illegally logged luxury wood found inside it on Monday belong to the wife of a district police chief in Tbong Khmum province, according to local officials, who say they have no intention of taking action against the couple.
“We don’t care about the people. We just want to stop forest crimes,” provincial police chief Mao Pov said on Tuesday.
The Land Cruiser was seized on Monday evening after a Bayon TV reporter alerted authorities to its illicit cargo, according to Memot district police chief Hong Kimhoeun.
The reporter, driving his own car, joined five police and Forestry Administration officers as they pursued the SUV down a dirt road and into a rice field, where the driver stopped suddenly and fled on foot, Mr. Kimhoeun said.
The officials made no attempt to chase the driver, but found the Land Cruiser to be full of valuable timber, said Pen Boulina, deputy chief of the Forestry Administration’s Tbong Khmum cantonment.
“We found 35 pieces of Thnong wood in the car,” he said, adding that the luxury-grade logs were about 1.5 meters long and 20 cm in diameter.
Mr. Kimhoeun said the car belonged to the family of his counterpart in neighboring Dambe district, police chief Teng Eng Hak.
“Mr. Eng Hak once told me that he was worried because he works as a police officer, stopping crime, but that his wife and children are in the timber business,” he said. “The police chief told his wife and children many times not to engage in illegal business, but they didn’t listen to him.”
Mr. Kimhoeun said it was up to the Forestry Administration to prosecute the family. Mr. Boulina said it was too soon to point fingers.
“I still haven’t received a report identifying the owner of the car and the wood,” he said. “We are investigating to find the people involved.”
But Mr. Eng Hak said it was no mystery. “The car and wood belong to my wife, but I’m not involved in the wood business,” he said before hanging up on reporters.
pheap@cambodiadaily.com
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