Press Release / Feb. 26, 1998

Co-Prime Ministers authorised illegal log export to Laos - Deal blocked by

Global Witness has obtained documents confirming official complicity in large scale illegal log exports to Laos, despite denials by the RGC in June 1998.

The documents, dating between October 1997 and May 1998 are signed by Hun Sen, Ung Huot and Chief of Staff Ke Kim Yan and authorise Military Region 1 to export 20,000m3 of 'anarchicly cut logs' and to retain the revenue.

The documents show that Thai logging company, Pipat Forestry are paying just $37 per m3 divided between MR1, the Police and the Forestry department, none of the revenue is destined for the Ministry of Finance. "This means that 20,000m3 of Cambodian logs are being sold off for a mere $740,000" said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. "Even with the economic crisis these logs are worth between $3 million - $10 million. What's more, we know that the total exports were scheduled to be 100,000m3, so MR1 stood to gain $3.7 million".

The first documents in the sequence refer to logs from Preah Vihear being exported to Thailand and Laos. Latter documents showed Laos to be the sole direct export destination; Global Witness' investigations showed that the logs were in fact being felled in Stung Treng.

The Thai government, honouring its commitments to the RGC, banned the import of the logs from Laos into Thailand. In September Global Witness investigators in Strung Treng were told that 16,500m3 of Cambodian logs were stranded on route 13, 20km north of the border with Laos. Pipat Forestry had not paid their Cambodian partner, Pheapimex-Fuchan who, in turn, had not paid the villagers who cut the logs. "There was an ugly mood up there" said Global Witness' Simon Taylor. "Pipat were not popular. The good news is that the cutting of trees in Stung Treng for this deal stopped as a direct result of the Thai border closure - and for that Thailand must be congratulated". However, Global Witness investigators were told that attempts were being made to export the logs to Hong Kong and China via Vietnam. "The Thai border closure is only a temporary reprieve, if the Vietnamese let these logs in then the cutting will start again", said Taylor.

Global Witness has faxed the documents to Cambodian Agriculture Minister Tao Seng Huor to assist with his promised investigation into the deal.