Acting on information receive, Thungthong police obtained a search warrant for a house with no number on the Kathu-Nakoh Rd.
Arriving at 6:15 am the police rounded up five men, Wiangchai Srichan, 34, and Udorn Srichan, 32, from Sra Kaew; Sanan Kodging, 42, from Narathiwat, Anucha Somsoong, 38, and from Yala, Thanad Petchrit, 45, from Nakhon Phanom.
They also found and seized five sacks containing 53.2 kilos of of timber chunks, including agarwood, 20 chisels, two axes, and a knife.
The five confessed that they had cut the wood in the forest around Bangwad Dam.
After cutting down the trees, they admitted, they cut it into smaller pieces ready for sale to a man named Sorn who would pay them B25,000.
They revealed that more agarwood was being stored in another no-number house further along the Kathu-Nakoh road.
Police visited the second house where they encountered Wirat Sunsuwan, 38, from Songkhla.
A search turned up more lumberjack equipment such as chisels, axes, and knives, but no agarwood. Under the pillow in Wirat’s bedroom they found a semi-automatic .45-calibre pistol with five bullets in the magazine.
Wirat admitted the gun was his, and that he had no license for it.
The theft of agarwood from forests in Phuket has been increasing in recent months, with officials and police finding destruction but – until yesterday – none of the perpetrators.
According to Wikipedia, “Agarwood … is a dark resinous heartwood that forms in Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees (large evergreens native to southeast Asia) when they become infected with a type of mould.
“Prior to infection, the heartwood is relatively light and pale coloured; however, as the infection progresses, the tree produces a dark aromatic resin in response to the attack, which results in a very dense, dark, resin embedded heartwood.
“The resin-embedded wood is … valued in many cultures for its distinctive fragrance, and thus is used for incense and perfumes.”
The only way to find agarwood is to chop into trees to see if the heartwood is infected. Nine out of 10 trees are uninfected, but are still killed by this treatment.
China Central TV (CCTV) reported in May that soaring demand for incense – of which agarwood is a prime ingredient – has been pushing up the price of agarwood, with demand outstripping supply from farmed trees. This has opened a new market for agarwood stolen from the wild.
On the legitimate market agarwood sells for anything from B30,000 a kilo to B250,000 a kilo, depending on quality.