Global Witness, the British environmental and human rights group, presented the Khmer translation of its latest report to His Majesty King Sihanouk, in Siem Reap, on Monday 6th July 1998. The report details illegal logging and the scale of deforestation in Cambodia in 1997 and early 1998.
"We have been documenting illegal logging in Cambodia since early 1995, since when it has become an issue of major domestic and international concern," said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. "But up to now those powerful figures who control illegal logging have relied on secrecy to prevent the Cambodian people knowing how serious this problem is. We hope this report will be read by many so that they can see the facts for themselves".
The report discloses the scale of illegal logging and its implications for Cambodia. It identifies the major logging companies and names the key politicians, officials, military and business figures involved. "In 1997 a minimum US$184 million worth of timber was felled in Cambodia, and experts commissioned by the Royal Government say that the forest will be commercially destroyed within five years at current cutting rates," said Patrick Alley. "The destruction of the forests mean the destruction of Cambodia's most valuable natural resource, and it means more floods, more droughts and more problems for Cambodian farmers".
The report covers the whole of Cambodia, with particular emphasis on illegal log exports to Vietnam in late 1997 and early 1998, worth US$36 million1. The report contains documents, signed by the co-Prime Ministers, which approve illegal exports to Vietnam and specify that the revenue should go direct to Military Region 1, not to the treasury. "These and other documents are just an example of how forestry policy is not decided by experts in the Ministry of Agriculture and the Forest Department, but by politicians and the army. Against this power the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance can do nothing, however hard they try. It is the Cambodian people who are the losers in this business".
_ Global Witness focuses on areas where environmental exploitation causes human rights abuses and funds conflict. Information obtained through research and field investigations is used to brief governments, inter-governmental organisations, NGOs and the media, in order to achieve positive change. Global Witness has no political affiliation.
_ The logging industry is extremely corrupt and affects Cambodia's agricultural base (rice and fisheries), its environment and economy, with particular implications for fiscal transparency, Cambodia's stability and human rights.
1. Timber value based on the World Bank's recommendation that the Royal Government should receive an 'economic rent' of US$75 per m3.
Press Release / July 7, 1998