Press Release / May 26, 1997

Concessions in the balance but biodiversity hotspot preserved

The 4th Consultative Group meeting on Cambodia has seen significant progress in forestry reform, with strong donor pressure for a complete moratorium on all forest concession activity.

At the Paris meeting on 25th and 26th May the international donor community welcomed the already significant reforms achieved by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), which have seen a drastic reduction in the levels of illegal logging. However, the donors focused on the ‘total systems failure’ of the concession system, identified by the recent ADB review. The German delegation highlighted that the RGC’s cancellation of three concessions that contained no trees contributed little to forestry reform.

‘The ADB confirmed that the concessionaires do not have the technical ability to run a concession, that they have breached their concession contracts and investment agreements and in many cases conducted illegal logging’, said Patrick Alley of Global Witness, in Paris. ‘The worst offenders must be removed and a moratorium placed on the activities of those that remain until they are capable of managing the forest responsibly. This is the only logical position to take and one that is supported by many of the donors. Failure to do so will almost certainly result in the commercial destruction of Cambodia’s remaining forests’.

In a dramatic announcement, Cambodia’s Secretary of State for Agriculture, Chan Tong Yves, announced that the RGC would preserve the fabulous diversity of the Cardamom mountain range by taking them out of concession. In his statement to the CG he said ‘It is the Government’s firm intention to conserve this area for posterity…we are completing studies that will define an area, currently under forestry concession, for preservation’. A recent survey by British NGO Fauna and Flora International found one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in Asia, containing endangered species including elephant, tiger and the Siamese crocodile, thought to have been extinct in the wild.

‘This decision will be of immense benefit to Cambodia’, said Jon Buckrell of Global Witness. ‘The value of preserving the Cardamoms dwarfs, in every sense, the returns of commercial logging.’