After evading arrest for two months over charges of illegal timber trafficking, a Vietnamese woman—as well as her Cambodian driver—was nabbed while dining at an Oddar Meanchey guesthouse and charged on Tuesday for using a fake license plate to transport wood, according to officials.
In early May, a man was caught carrying luxury rosewood in a Lexus 470 with Cambodian license plates after striking a child with the SUV in Kompong Thom province’s Baray district, according to the provincial police’s anti-economic crime bureau chief Yim Phoan.
Upon arrest, he told officials that the car and logs were owned by Nguieng Thy Mey, 39, said Mr. Phoan, who added that he did not know the value of the wood or the fate of the child, but said the driver—whose name he could not remember—was eventually released.
Ms. Nguieng was charged in absentia later that month for collecting forest products without a permit under articles 96 and 98 of the Forestry Law, Mr. Phoan said. In total, the crimes are punishable by up to five years in prison and large fines.
“The investigating judge had issued warrants two times ordering the woman to show up at court for questioning about transporting rosewood, but she did not come,” Mr. Phoan said.
Oddar Meanchey provincial governor Sar Thavy said on Tuesday that about a month ago, the court tipped off Oddar Meanchey authorities that Ms. Nguieng was purchasing wood smuggled across the nearby Thai border and transporting it to Kompong Thom in a separate Lexus 470.
“Our provincial authorities had received information from the Kompong Thom Provincial Court accusing the woman of trafficking rosewood, and they asked us to arrest her,” he said.
“I gave orders to the authorities to find the woman, but they could not find her,” he added.
According to Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, locals in Oddar Meanchey’s Anlong Veng district had repeatedly told of selling Ms. Nguieng wood logged in Thailand, which she then trafficked to Vietnam.
Local authorities spotted Ms. Nguieng and another driver of hers, Mon Kunthy, 45, at a guesthouse in the district from where she coordinated the purchases and contacted provincial authorities, according to Mr. Phoan. An arrest warrant was issued and the two were later arrested over a meal on Monday afternoon in nearby Stung Sen district’s Damrei Choankhla commune.
They were both charged on Tuesday over forging a public document for a rigged license plate on the second SUV, said Mr. Phoan, for which they face two to five years in prison and fines of up to 10 million riel, or about $2,500.
Kompong Thom court prosecutor Ith Sothea confirmed that the two had been charged and were sent to Investigating Judge Khorn Sakol.
Judge Sakol said he had received the pair and they were currently undergoing further questioning.
aunpheap@cambodiadaily.com
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