By The Nation
Wichit Kijwirat, Khon Buri district chief, interrogated the five men at the Thap Lan National Park management office in Tambon Khok Krachai after their arrest on Monday.
The suspects, aged between 22 and 44 years old, were arrested by a fast-deployment unit of park officials and troops from the Second Army Area.
They were spotted carrying 34 planks of the protected hardwood in a forest behind Ban Lampiak village in Tambon Lampiak.
The five suspects told the district chief that they were hired by a Vietnamese businessman to sneak across the border to fell Siamese rosewood trees and smuggle the wood back across the border to Cambodia. They said they were among a group of 20 Cambodians whom the businessman had promised to pay Bt250 per kilo of the hardwood.
Conservationists warn that Siamese rosewood trees could be extinct by 2026, after an epidemic of illegal logging driven mainly by demand from China has stripped Thailand’s forests of the species. In 2015 seven Thai forest rangers were killed as they tried to halt illegal Siamese rosewood logging.