Press Release / March 1, 1998

Deforestation in Cambodian - the implications for the July 1998 elections and the country's reconstruction.

A Statement by Global Witness on the Occasion of the ASEM Summit - London, 3rd & 4th April 1998

Despite domestic and international efforts to reform forest policy, illegal logging has escalated in Cambodia. The Cambodian Forestry Department and the holders of legal timber concessions estimate that Cambodia's forests will be commercially logged out within 3 - 5 years. During 1997 and early 1998 between 2.4 - 4.5 million m3 of logs were illegally felled, against a sustainable yield of 700,000m3. Based on the World Bank's recommended economic rent of US$75 per m3 this timber represents not only the destruction of Cambodia's most valuable natural resource, but a loss to the national budget of US$180 - 337million, up to eighty percent of the total 1998 budget.

The illegal logging is controlled by and funds the CPP aligned Cambodian military with the sanction of the co-Prime Ministers. In the lead up to the July 1998 elections this poses a serious physical threat to the democratic process and creates a large scale imbalance in political funding. Furthermore, it undermines the EU's 9.5 million Ecu package to help fund the elections.

The leadership of Vietnam and Thailand are colluding with the Cambodian leadership to import large quantities of logs and sawn wood (minimum 1 million m3 in 1997) thereby subverting the laws of all three countries. In addition, large numbers of Vietnamese loggers and materiel are operating illegally in Cambodian territory. As beneficiaries of billions of dollars of western aid Vietnam and Thailand are undermining international support for Cambodia's reconstruction.

Global Witness is calling on the members of ASEM to respect Cambodia's forestry regulations and the international support for Cambodia's reconstruction. In particular, the governments of Vietnam and Thailand should close their land and sea borders to further imports of Cambodia's timber, unless these imports comply with the Royal Government of Cambodia's 29th April 1997 Decision No.17. Vietnam and Thailand publicly state that they do comply with Cambodian legislation, but in fact subvert it.