The Forest Law Enforcement Conference meeting in Phnom Penh this week will seek strategies to solve illegal logging in the Mekong Region. Given that a large Thai delegation will attend it is ironic that the Thai Forestry Department has decided to allow four logging companies (SA Pharmaceutical, B&F Goodrich, Phol Phana and Thai-Korean Veterans Welfare Organisation) to import of 120,000m3 of left over timber from Burma. This deal echoes the 1996 million metre deal in Cambodia, which would have allowed 1.1 million m3 of old felled logs to be imported from Khmer Rouge held territory into Thailand.
The Bangkok Post editorial (10th June 1999) rightly expresses concern about this deal said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. The World Bank funded forest policy reform project said that 95% of illegal logging in Cambodia was based on permits to collect old felled logs -in fact an excuse to fresh cut .
Global Witness pointed out that SA Pharmaceutical, one of the Thai companies concerned, was a beneficiary of the million metre deal and that its sister company, Pipat Forestry, is currently illegally importing Cambodian logs into Thailand, via Laos.
Very recent history shows that old felled , left over or any other sort of logs which fell down by themselves should be banned from export, even if it means they are left to rot. You can guarantee that when these logs have entered Thailand another bunch of left over logs will mysteriously appear, said Simon Taylor of Global Witness. We would wager that every one of these companies will run rings around the law enforcement agencies and, as usual, profit from illegal plunder. This threatens Thailand s forests and the regional ecology, not to mention benefiting Burma s military regime .
These companies almost certainly enjoy high level connections in Thailand. General Chavalit was closely involved in the million metre deal and will certainly know of SA Pharmaceutical. It would take someone of similar level to have allowed this deal to go through , said Patrick Alley. Given that we believe Chavalit had close connections with five of the companies involved in the million metre deal, including SA Pharmaceutical/Pipat, as did Cambodia s own Pheapimex-Fuchan, in the spirit of regional cooperation it is time that Thailand got to the bottom of these relationships and clamped down on these illegal activities .
Press Release / June 14, 1999