The donor Sub-Group Meeting on Forestry and Natural Resources will be held in Phnom Penh on September the 14th. Global Witness is calling on the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) to restate its commitment to preserving the Cardamom Mountains at the meeting, to cancel the GAT concession and to set out a timetable for the removal of other concessionaires in the region.
"The RGC's statement of its 'firm intention' to conserve the Cardamoms for posterity was one of the most dramatic and encouraging announcements to be made at the May 2000 Consultative Group meeting. But the region is still under concession to five logging companies and that is clearly inconsistent with the preservation of this extraordinary area." said Patrick Alley of Global Witness.
On May 26th, the final day of the Consultative Group meeting in Paris, Global Witness and Conservation International (CI) conducted an aerial survey of the GAT concession area, which showed that GAT had been illegally logging, not only in its own concession but also in a neighbouring concession owned by Samling International. Following the submission of a crime report by Global Witness the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW) and the Forest Crimes Monitoring Unit (FCMU) immediately organised a field inspection of the GAT concession.
The team including members from the DFW and FCMU, Global Witness and CI uncovered clear evidence of illegal cutting and transportation of timber by GAT. DFW subsequently filed charges against GAT at Koh Kong provincial court. Although the court's judgement went against GAT it was flawed in that it allowed GAT to keep the 777 logs that GAT had cut. GAT was also only required to pay royalties on the logs when it should have been fined between two and three times the value of the illegal timber. DFW intends to appeal the court's decision.
"The joint investigation of GAT's operations in June was a model of good cooperation between DFW, Global Witness and CI. The FCMU did precisely what it was set up to do; but despite the conclusive evidence of illegal logging discovered by the team and the 20th June court ruling against GAT the concession agreement has not been cancelled." said Alley.
The GAT case is the first instance where Global Witness' findings have been supported in their entirety by the DFW. But a failure on the part of the RGC to cancel GAT's contract is a major threat to the reform process. The concessionaires must not be seen to be out of bounds for the FCMU.
"DFW's decision to appeal the provincial court ruling should be applauded and is indicative of the department's continued commitment to forestry reform. By cancelling the GAT contract the RGC as a whole would be sending a clear message to the donors and to the members of the Cambodia Timber Industry Association (CTIA) that it will not tolerate illegal activities by the concessionaires and that the reform process is still on track.” said Global Witness' Jon Buckrell.
Press Release / Sept. 12, 2000