Press Release / Feb. 24, 1999

Global Witness calls for suspension of concessions

Global Witness' latest report "Crackdown or Pause? A Chance for Forestry Reform in Cambodia?" applauds the RGC's crackdown on log exports but points out the dangers of the delay in implementing the Forest Policy Reform Project and that the infrastructure of illegal logging remains intact. All of Cambodia's Military Regions retain control of illegal log stockpiles and are poised for a resumption of illegal logging.

"Hun Sen has shown that it is possible to crackdown on log exports, but it is less clear whether this crackdown can be maintained after the Tokyo CG meeting" Said Global Witness' Simon Taylor.

During the past two weeks Global Witness lobbyists have visited multilateral and bilateral donors in Europe and the US, urging resumption of aid based upon performance related improvements in the forestry sector. In addition to the problem of well orchestrated military controlled 'anarchic' logging, forest policy reform is a crucial issue that needs to be addressed.

In May 1998 the World Bank funded Forest Policy Reform Project made its recommendations to the RGC and warned that Cambodia's forests would be commercially logged out by 2003. Since then nothing has happened. One of the Project's key recommendations is that every concession undergoes a performance based review to determine whether the concession should be terminated or renegotiated. The ADB will undertake this review but due to internal logistical problems the review will not begin until May 1999 at the earliest.

"This delay is unacceptable," said Global Witness' Patrick Alley. "By the time the ADB begin the review, 13 months will have passed since the Forest Policy Reform Project said the forest had five years to go. It is disturbing that a major multilateral cannot get its act together on such a crucial issue. During this time the concessionaires, virtually all of which operate illegally, have been cutting without permission in their own concessions, logging outside their concessions, within national parks and illegally exporting logs. It is pretty clear that they cannot be trusted to operate within the law and it is therefore imperative that all concession activity is immediately suspended".

'Crackdown or Pause...' documents the continuing illegal activities of numerous concessionaires including Hero, Samling, Pheapimex-Fuchan, Kingwood, Lang Song International and Colexim. Last week Long Day, who have been logging in Bokor National Park for years, received logs down Route 4, probably from Kompong Thom. Furthermore, the report notes that only two concessionaires (Samilng and GAT International) have the capacity to operate their own concessions: the rest hire contractors - usually the military.

"These companies have no regard for Cambodia's future and are undermining Hun Sen's crackdown. We are calling on the Cambodian government to suspend these concessions until the review process is complete; we're also calling on the international community to fund the revenue shortfall. As the concessionaires only contributed US$5 million to the 1998 budget whilst destroying Cambodia's resources I doubt that anyone will miss them," said Simon Taylor of Global Witness.