A provincial military police commander was named yesterday by a major conservationist group as the alleged owner of a huge haul of illegal rosewood confiscated in Kampong Speu province this week.
At around 3am on Tuesday, Wildlife Alliance rangers intercepted a truck carrying 12.5 cubic metres of rosewood in what amounted to its largest bust of the luxury wood so far this year.
While the driver did not confess to owning the haul or give indication to who did, when the truck was taken to the Sre Ambel district’s Forestry Administration ranger station at 9am, Kampong Speu military police commander Men Siborn was quickly identified as a suspect.
“When we arrived at the station, local villagers said ‘that’s the military commander’s truck,’” said Wildlife Alliance founder and CEO Suwanna Gauntlett, adding that informants had tipped the group off about the haul.
Gauntlett said that there was “nothing unusual” about a high-ranking official being behind an illegal logging operation and, if punished, the accused would likely pay a penalty rather than face legal action.
Siborn could not be reached for comment yesterday.
A post on Wildlife Alliance’s website says orders were given on Tuesday for the truck to be sent to the provincial court. “This had never happened before – evidence is always kept at the patrol stations under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Administration – but the law authorizes judges to make this kind of decision,” it says.
By yesterday evening, the truck was at Kampong Speu Forestry Administration division, according to a Wildlife Alliance official.
Keo Sothea, Kampong Speu provincial prosecutor, told the Post yesterday that the court is working on this case, but would not give further details.
Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization (NRWPO), said that most of the timber illegally logged in the area is felled in Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary and transported to Vietnam for sale.