Despite the 31st December border closure, logging within Cambodia continues unabated, according to Global Witness' latest briefing document A Tug of War, the struggle to preserve Cambodia's forests, released today. The document slams the mismanagement of quasi-legal concessions including Samling and Pheapimex, continues criticism of RCAF involvement in illegal logging, examines Thailand's continuing role and questions high level political commitment to reforming forestry policy. "Although the RGC have taken some positive steps, illegal logging continues unabated:coupled with Hun Sen's ultimatum to the IMF one has to wonder if the RGC's commitment to forestry reform is beginning to slip," said Charmian Gooch of Global Witness.
Samling's Kratie logging road has punched through Snoul Wildlife sanctuary, where the company is felling some of the 4,000m3 of logs they are bringing out of the forest daily. Samling has been accused of overcutting, and felling undersize trees. "In the unlikely event that Samling are cutting as little as the maximum allowable cut of 15m3/ha they will log out their concession in 10 years. Everything we've heard about their cutting rate suggests they could do it in half the time, which is pretty convenient as they have an 8 year tax holiday" said Simon Taylor of Global Witness.
There are reports that Samling are illegally exporting logs directly to Vietnam and are buying logs from RCAF in Military Region no.2. The company also pay local KR US$350 'tax' per truck (a total of US$17,000) per month to bring logs from the forest. "Prince Ranariddh is on record saying that if concessionaires break their concession agreements the concessions will be revoked, Samling is an obvious candidate but will the first Prime Minister act?" said Taylor.
A Tug of War also mentions the Taiwanese Pheapimex-Fuchan Co. which has not only felled over 150,000m3 of logs without Forestry Department approval but recently benefited from the recently announced export duty exemption. An illegal adhoc 'forestry committee' headed by Stung Treng's Deputy Governor supposedly sells logs to "Banteay Sovathheap" (safe military base), in reality a cover for Pheapimex.
Thai logging companies facing severe financial hardship due to the border closure are lobbying the Thai Government (RTG) to ask the RGC to open the border. Although sympathetic the RTG are wary of international pressure. "There will be a meeting discussing Thai/Cambodia relations on 20th March in Chiang Mai, no doubt the loggers will be there arguing their case. We are calling for the international community to send a clear message to the meeting telling the loggers that the game is up" said Gooch.
Global Witness has also produced a critique of the US Sate Department's report which determined that Thailand has no current dealings with the KR. "Considering that the RTG opened the checkpoints opposite Anlong Veng last September for two years, and in January the logging companies had workers in KR territory, the report has some extraordinarily conspicuous omissions" said Patrick Alley of Global Witness.
Press Release / March 3, 1997