A local activist and a wildlife sanctuary official criticised yesterday the burning of 120 pieces of luxury wood by soldiers from Unit 501 in Pursat province on Saturday, saying the wood should have been confiscated by the Forestry Administration to be used as evidence.
The military unit, working with Thmor Da commune police officers in Veal Veng district, intercepted a makeshift truck loaded with the more than 2,000 kilograms of rosewood in the early hours of Saturday morning. The soldiers burned the timber following the raid.
Thmor Da Commune Chief Prom Ngon said he approved the torching of the evidence, with the support of the military unit commander, Suon Sarom, and Pursat Provincial Governor Mao Thonin, who could not be reached for comment.
But forest conservation activist Kuoch Veng called the torching of such a large trove of evidence highly suspicious. “I think that over 2 tonnes of rosewood belonged to a powerful person in government,” he said.
A Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary official working with the Ministry of Environment and speaking on condition of anonymity said the unit’s decision to burn the evidence undermines government attempts to crack down on the illegal timber trade. “The makeshift truck was impounded [to prepare] for a lawsuit, but they burnt the rosewood,” the official said. “This act is [in] contrast to the law.”
Pursat court spokesman Chhay Hon yesterday said the court will examine the case if the Forestry Administration requests it. “However, until now, I have not yet received a clear report from [them] or those armed forced units yet,” he said.