Nearly 30 pieces of sralao and koki timber measuring 3m long and 30 to 40cm in diameter were found by locals at three sites in O’Raing district’s Dak Dam commune in Mondulkiri province on Tuesday. The timber was hidden in a forest around 1km from their houses.
Teuy Thi, a member of the forest protection community in the commune’s Pou Treng village, told The Post on Thursday that a boy – who was herding cattle – found timber and reported it to him on Tuesday.
Thi then rode his motorbike to the site and saw the timber, which had been sawn into pieces and concealed by leaves. There were three tents pitched nearby.
He said there had been two more sites concealing timber, but that it had been transported out.
According to Thi, the timber may have been logged from the community forest, but he was unsure of where it was to be transported to. “I didn’t see any vehicles or machinery to transport the timber,” he said.
Thi informed Kroeung Tola, the representative of the provincial Forest Protection Community, about the timber. Tola then told provincial Forestry Administration director Um Van Sopheak.
Tola quoted Van Sopheak as saying there was no possibility of transporting the timber for storage due to insufficient manpower.
“The director of the provincial Forestry Administration said there’s no one to help haul the timber onto a truck. Where did all the manpower go? Are they just waiting for me to continue reporting the matter to His Excellency the provincial governor and him to have someone lift the timber onto a truck?” he said.
However, Van Sopheak told The Post that Tola had not informed him about the case and that he first heard of the timber find on Thursday morning. He also said Tola was exaggerating and that there had been no collaboration with him.
“I am getting angry at him, saying that he called me and that I do not have the manpower. When did he call me? I don’t know a thing and he’s blabbing on like this."
“When was it that he called me? Yesterday [on Thursday], I went into the forest in the morning and didn’t come out until seven or eight at night,” he said.
Van Sopheak said he had sufficient manpower at his disposition and the ability to hire a truck to transport the timber as soon as there is a clear location designated for storage. However, he said he was also unsure if the timber was illegally obtained.
Dak Dam commune chief Chas Na said he was unaware of the timber, but he claimed that in the vicinity of the commune, there were had been no reports of large-scale logging operations.
But Thi claimed that in the past when illegal timber logging operations were found in his commune, he had always reported them to the commune authority, but they had never launched any investigations.