Press Release / May 22, 1997

Co-Prime Ministers and Military cooperate in widespread illegal timber trade

There is widespread evidence of massive cooperation between Cambodia's co-Prime Ministers and the Cambodian army in the destruction of Cambodia's forests, according to Global Witness' latest nationwide investigation. "Despite really encouraging signs in January and February 1997 that the Royal Government of Cambodia were closing down the massive illegal timber trade in Cambodia, it is apparent that the two Prime Ministers and the Cambodian army are acting on behalf of various timber companies. running the country as their own personal business", said Simon Taylor of Global Witness.

"Global Witness is calling on the international donors, in the lead up to the CG meeting in Paris on 1st & 2nd July, to exert high level pressure on the co-Prime Ministers and the army. They have to realise that they are part of the Cambodian government and must abide by the constitution and the law." Said Patrick Alley of Global Witness.

Illegal company activity: There are many examples of illegal activity. Pheapimex-Fuchan Company (Pheapimex) is striking example of the way in which companies are using political patronage at the highest level to reap massive profits from the destruction of Cambodia's forests.

Pheapimex has a legally approved concession on the west bank of the Mekong in Stung Treng Province, but currently illegally cut trees in Macro-Panin's concession on the east bank, where Global Witness investigators saw over 8,000 logs lying along Route 19 and the banks of the Mekong. Other concessionaires including GAT International and Timas Resources have complained in vain about Pheapimex logging in their areas.

Pheapimex pay US$3 per m3 to Military Region 1, and one of the company's provincial representatives, Ung Vireachit, is vice commander of Unit 42, whose responsibilities include security, log cutting and log collection.

At a Ministry of Agriculture meeting held on 3rd February 1997 it was disclosed that Pheapimex pays US$5 per m3 to each of the construction committees of the "safe military bases" of each Prime Minister, in clear violation of Cambodian law. The Forestry Department's efforts to prevent Pheapimex's illegal activities resulted in the direct intervention of the co-Prime Ministers, who ordered Tao Seng Huor to warn the director. Only the intervention of the international community protected his job.

"The activities of this company and its boss, a woman called Chung So Pheap, is indicative of the abuses of Cambodia's forests and it's people" said Charmian Gooch of Global Witness.

Global Witness is also calling for the 29th April 1997 Decision on wood exports to be amended before it becomes law. "Right now it states that timber can only be exported through Phnom Penh Port, Sihanoukville and 'Other crossing points....when there is a decision of the Royal Government'. This last point is a massive loophole that makes the whole declaration worthless and it has to be removed. As long as the demand for timber from Cambodia's neighbours continues, illegal logging will continue, threatening the future of Cambodia and its people", said Charmian Gooch.