Authorities in Kompong Thom province on Saturday arrested three people transporting luxury-grade timber across the province without a license and seized more than a dozen cubic meters of wood at a local warehouse, though they say they still don’t know who it belongs to.
Yim Phoan, deputy chief of the province’s anti-economic crime police, said on Sunday that his officers stopped a truck hauling a few pieces of Thnong wood through Prasat Balaing district at about 3 a.m. on Saturday.
The driver and two passengers told the officers they had come from neighboring Preah Vihear province and led them to the nearby warehouse where they had been headed to, he said. There, officers found another truck and more Thnong.
Mr. Phoan said the three men claimed not to know who owned the truck. He also claimed that his officers did not ask them who the warehouse belonged to before handing them over to the local Forestry Administration cantonment.
He said the Kompong Thom Provincial Court already knew who the warehouse owner was but declined to identify the person because the case was still under investigation.
Cantonment director Tep Yeata said one of the arrested men, Sun Phal, said the warehouse belonged to his brother but refused to name him and claimed he was not involved with the timber.
Mr. Yeata said the 1,791 pieces of Thnong amounted to 13.3 cubic meters.
Contacted on Sunday morning, provincial court prosecutor Ith Sothea said one of the three arrested men was released because he was only hired for a job and was not responsible for the alleged timber trafficking.
Mr. Sothea said the owner of the warehouse, whom he said he reached by phone in Phnom Penh, had used the building in the past to store rice and that someone else had since started using it to stash timber.
“The owner abandoned this warehouse a long time ago, and someone else was using the warehouse to keep wood,” he said. “We have no plan to call the warehouse owner for questioning because he was not involved.”
The prosecutor, however, claimed not to know who the warehouse owner—whom he had purportedly just spoken with by phone—was, and said he was too busy to answer further questions.
He said he would be questioning the remaining two suspects in the afternoon. But when contacted again in the afternoon, he said he was still too busy to talk.
pheap@cambodiadaily.com
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