Timber inspection inflames merchant

By: An enraged timber trader attacked a police officer on Friday in a row over the inspection of his goods.
Published: 22/03/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
The incident took place at the Ban Huay Pueng border pass in Mae Hong Son when a lorry loaded with processed teak was intercepted by police on suspicion it was bringing in smuggled Burmese wood.

However, a request to inspect the load was met with a point-blank refusal from the timber traders, sparking a heated exchange of words.

Things escalated when Sujin Chatisirisopon, president of Bangkok Raja Timber Industries, attacked Pol Sgt-Maj Sompong Sonkham, who ran off and managed to escape serious injury.

Later, following a thorough inspection, all 2,326 pieces of teak were found to be legal.

Mr Sujin said he did everything by the book, especially with regards to the payment of import duty.

He said he could not control his temper as he was unhappy with the unjustified interception of his timber.

Mr Sujin threatened to lodge a legal complaint with a Lower House standing committee on border affairs and file legal action against Pol Maj-Gen Chalit Kingnet, the Mae Hong Son provincial police chief, and governor Thongchai Wongrienthong, saying they unfairly singled out his company for inspection.

Provincial authorities and timber traders have been at odds since permission was granted for local cooperatives to import Burmese timber to be made into carvings and souvenirs for the tourist market.

A source said some businesses had dominated the cooperatives and bribed authorities so they could bring in the timber under the woodwork quota. But it was found the wood was not used for souvenirs but sold to buyers in Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan.

A dispute was reported after border inspectors zeroed in on some timber traders but not others. Owners had cried foul and accused the border authorities of adopting a double standard in checking the timber consignments, according to the source.

The House standing committee on border affairs visited the Ban Huay Pueng border pass on Friday and said trade was hampered by too many commerce-related laws.

Committee chairman Sitthidech Kaewluang said he would raise the problem in the House of Representatives.

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