Authorities in Preah Vihear province’s Rovieng district chased a convoy of vehicles loaded with timber on Tuesday, evading nails dropped by the smugglers and bullets fired at them to deter their pursuit before seizing hundreds of kilograms of illegal timber.
Meas Yim, chief of the district environmental office, said his forces placed a barricade on the road to stop them, but they ploughed through it.
“We managed to seize 822 kilograms of kranhoung timber,” he said. “We deployed forces in front of O’Po commune environment office after receiving definite information about the trafficking of kranhoung on National Road 62.
“Five vehicles were in a convoy, but did not stop and instead hit through the barricade. We chased them and they scattered nails on the road to stop us. We evaded the nails and continued to chase them.
“The car in front then opened the fire on us. Two shots were fired to deter us, but we still continued to chase them for four or five kilometres. Because we could not drive as fast as them, all but one of them managed to escape.”
Mr Yim said one of the vehicles, a Lexus SUV loaded with timber, had fallen behind its convoy, as well as the authorities, and ran over some of the dropped nails, bringing it to a halt.
“About half an hour later, when we returned to our office, we encountered the Lexus. The driver left the car and wood behind and we saw the flat tires. The key was taken away,” he said.
Mr Yim added that he and his officers received death threats at their office later that night.
“Some of the cars protecting the vehicles carrying the timber came to my office and people shouted they would shoot us, so we ran into the building and they thought we went to get guns and left,” he said.
Mr Yim said he has filed a report to the court over the incident in order to track down the owners of the timber.
Phy Sithorng, spokeswoman for the provincial court, confirmed she received a complaint from Mr Yim and said the crackdown was also part of a court investigation.
“The chief prosecutor led the forces to crackdown on the timber traders and we are still investigating,” she said.