Authorities in Kratie province have identified a rubber plantation where nearly 50 cubic meters of illegally logged luxury-grade timber was found on Sunday, but are ruling out the owners as suspects before the investigation is completed.
Deputy Snuol district governor Sam Nal Tuesday’said the 86 Thnong logs were found on a plantation belonging to Vietnam Kampuchea Economic Trade and Industry (VKETI), a Vietnamese company.
But Mr. Nal said he was convinced the firm was not culpable on the grounds that the timber could not have been logged in Snuol because there were no Thnong trees left in the district.
“I am sure the company was not involved in logging,” he said. “People logged it in Keo Seima district in Mondolkiri province, and then dropped it there.”
Mr. Nal did not elaborate on his theory or how he could be sure the loggers did not work for, or in collaboration with, the plantation.
“I have asked the company’s representatives about the wood, and they told me they did not know about it,” he said.
District governor Kong Kimny also offered scant evidence for absolving the company.
“We do not suspect the company because they are not able to log trees and bring them from far away because they do not have many people for logging,” he said. “I think other people logged the wood in Mondolkiri to export it to Vietnam, but we don’t know who they are and our authorities are investigating.”
Nguieng Thanh Binh, an assistant to VKETI administration manager Chin Thay, said he was questioned by authorities on Tuesday afternoon and denied his company’s involvement.
“The district military police called me for questioning this afternoon because the wood was found on the company’s land,” he said. “I told them the company was not involved in logging.”
Rubber plantations across the country have become notorious for laundering, or being used to launder, illegally logged wood from surrounding forests, including those along the Kratie-Mondolkiri border.
But authorities are loath to accuse the plantations of any wrongdoing.
Early last year, authorities seized about 70,000 cubic meters of unlicensed logs across eastern Cambodia, most of it found on rubber plantations. To date, no one has been charged in connection with the seizures.
pheap@cambodiadaily.com
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