Press Release / March 30, 1998

ASEM Members Plunder Cambodia’s Forests, 3-5 years left

A new report by British environmental and human rights group Global Witness slams ASEM members Vietnam and Thailand for large-scale illegal logging in Cambodia.
“Going Places ..... Cambodia’s Future on the Move” details that during 1997 and early 1998 Vietnam colluded with Cambodia’s Prime Ministers to import a minimum of 260,000m3 of high grade logs worth US$130 million - 44 per cent of Cambodia’s 1998 budget. Thailand illegally imports 750,000m3 of Cambodian timber annually, worth over US$350 million.
“Cambodia’s forests will be commercially logged out within 3-5 years”, said Simon Taylor of Global Witness. “These are the estimates of the Cambodian Forestry Department and the loggers themselves.”
Cambodia’s forests are the country’s most valuable natural resource and are central to reconstruction, but in 1997 only generated US$12.7 million for the Treasury despite massive exploitation. Illegal logging is controlled by the Cambodian military with the sanction of the country’s two Prime Ministers, and generates a massive parallel military budget.
“The military is virtually financially independent and backs the Second Prime Minister, Hun Sen. With elections due in July 1998 this is a real threat to democracy” said Patrick Alley of Global Witness.
Global Witness is calling on the EU and its member states to put pressure on Vietnam and Thailand to adhere to their own and Cambodian law which makes this trade illegal.
“Vietnam and Thailand both receive billions of dollars of international financial support and, in turn, are undermining international support for Cambodia. The EU should use the opportunity afforded by the ASEM meeting to tell them to stop” said Taylor.

Editor’s Notes
· Cambodia implemented a timber export ban on 31st December 1996.
· Thailand was pledged US$16 million in IMF loans in 1997.
· The international community provides approximately 50 per cent of Cambodia’s national budget.
· Cambodia’s 1998 budget is US$419 million.
· ASEM is an informal meeting between ASEAN and the EU. Its second meeting takes place 2-4 April 1998 and will be attended by heads of state.
· The EU is bankrolling Cambodia’s July 1998 elections.