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Report / 6 Feb 2015

The Cost of Luxury

The Chinese craze for antique-style furniture has given rise to a multi-million dollar timber smuggling operation in Cambodia, and is driving rare trees to extinction.

This eight-month investigation recorded tonnes of rare timber being trucked out of Cambodia’s national parks and shipped to Hong Kong. Logging of luxury-grade timber is outlawed in Cambodia, and the global trade in Siamese Rosewood has been restricted since 2013, but Chinese demand for antique-style Hongmu furniture is increasing and the illegal trade has ballooned since the ban was announced.

During months of interviews with loggers, state officials, police and activists, our investigators kept coming back to one man, who we’ve dubbed the 'King of Rosewood'.

Try Pheap

Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap has connections at the highest levels of government and sits at the helm of an illegal logging network that relies on collusion with state officials and enforcement agencies to fell rare trees, traffic logs across the country and load them onto boats bound for Hong Kong. This black market trade is destroying the livelihoods of indigenous and forest-dependent communities.

Follow our investigators as they track illegal luxury timber from Cambodia’s Virachey National Park to Sihanoukville port, where it is loaded onto boats bound for Hong Kong.

Those who oppose the illegal loggers put their lives on the line. Cambodia’s well-known environmental defender and forest crime investigator Chut Wutty was shot dead in 2012.  Six months later journalist Hang Sorei Oudom, who wrote extensively about the elite’s links to illegal forestry, was found dead in the boot of his car.

Global Witness is campaigning for a stop to illegal logging in Cambodia and the immediate suspension of all imports of rare Cambodian Hongmu timber by the Peoples Republic of China and Hong Kong officials.