Hun Sen’s crackdown on logging has halted the vast majority of illegal timber exports, particularly to Vietnam, and from Koh Kong to Thailand. “Hun Sen has shown that with his political will illegal logging can be brought under control - this gives real optimism for the future of Cambodia’s forests and should impress the international community”, said Global Witness’ Patrick Alley.
But Global Witness issued a strong warning that the military are at the core of the logging problem and have to be removed from the forest equation if the crackdown is to be regarded as anything more than temporary. Global Witness noted that recent log seizures are token and predictable in the lead up to February’s meeting of the Consultative Group (CG) on Cambodia.
The leadership of the RCAF including Ke Kim Yan and the senior officers in every military region are responsible for uncontrolled illegal logging in all provinces, particularly Ratanakiri, Stung Treng, Kratie, Mondulkiri, Kompong Thom, Preah Vihear and Koh Kong. They control timber stockpiles, sawmills and logging equipment and are all waiting for a recommencement of activity. “Until Hun Sen takes action against these people and confiscates their stockpiles the crackdown will be cosmetic and very transitory” said Simon Taylor. “For example, just 45 minutes out of Koh Kong town there are two log barges loaded with 2,000m3 of logs, under MR3 protection, waiting for export. There are 20,000m3 of logs near Valoeu checkpoint on the Vietnamese border, owned by MR2. Kompong Thom and Preah Vihear are littered with logs felled by MR4. When the RGC confiscate these logs and bring the military to book, then the crackdown might have some long term meaning, but right now the illegal loggers are being asked to crack down on themselves.”
Loggers in Ratanakiri told Global Witness on 10th January that activity had calmed down because of Thomas Hammarberg’s visit but would resume when he left. This proved to be true, as this week the Taiwanese Hero company resumed the transport of logs to its Ban Lung sawmill and round logs were exported to Vietnam along route 19.
Global Witness also drew attention to the disturbing lack of transparency surrounding the concession process and lack of progress in implementing the World Bank funded technical assistance projects. “Key members of the Steering Committee on Forest Policy Reform, including those at ministerial level, cannot obtain a current list of concessions from the forest department; if there is no cooperation between government departments the whole process is meaningless. Transparency is crucial to forest policy reform” said Patrick Alley.
In Koh Kong two of the most notorious illegal loggers, Mai Voot Tee and Yuri Sako appear to have obtained concessions but it is not clear from who, although Mai Voot Tee’s 63,000ha concessions appears to have been sublet by the Chinese owned Silveroad Wood Products, who in turn have replaced Pheapimex-Fuchan Vanachai. Yuri Sako have built a vast logging base camp adjacent to Koh Kong airfield; Mai Voot Tee processes timber for export to Thailand and regularly illegally exports round logs to Japan, Indonesia and Thailand. “We have notified the Forestry Department that there are illegal stockpiles in Koh Kong and Kratie in the presumption that they will take appropriate action”.
“The RGC pledged that no new concession would be issued until the TA projects were up and running - but if Koh Kong is anything to go by concessions are freely shuffled, cancelled, granted and sublet with no transparency at all. Furthermore although only five concessionaires have permission to cut virtually every concessionaire we have seen is cutting” said Patrick Alley.
Global Witness is calling on the international community at the CG in Tokyo to impose positive conditionality based on performance related criteria relating to logging. “We are not saying cut aid, we are saying release aid as progress is made in the forestry sector” said Taylor. “As the forests will be logged out by 2003 we cannot return to the old scenario where the RGC makes a raft of promises before a CG meeting and then does nothing. There needs to be a reporting process throughout the year and there needs to be teeth in the donors demands for forestry reform.” said Taylor, who stressed that conditionality should not apply to humanitarian aid. In the past donors have resisted conditionality but Global Witness believes that the international community expect firm action from the RGC, not just words.
Global Witness can be contacted in Phnom Penh on 015 923 001 or in London:
Tel: + 44 171 272 6731, Fax: + 44 171 272 9425
email: [email protected] internet: http://www.oneworld.org/globalwitness/
Global Witness is calling for:
· Renegotiation of concessions based on White & Case’s legal review, and on concessionaires past performance. - Companies shown to be operating illegally, should be prosecuted and have their concession contracts terminated. Such companies should be denied the possibility of renewed contracts in Cambodia. - There should be a reduction in the number of concessionaires and the total land area given over to forestry concessions. - There should be a urgent reduction in processing capacity (currently approximately five times the maximum sustainable cut for the whole country). - Reform of forest policy based on the TA projects recommendations. - The signing of a sub-decree banning the issuing of log collection quotas. All existing permits should be classified null and void. - Removal of the RCAF from any involvement in forestry, other than as a back up to the Department of Forestry as required. - Due to severe depletion of protected areas, they should be protected by law and expanded to include additional areas of biological significance.
Current illegal activities:
Ratanakiri: Hero company buying logs from MR1
Stung Treng: Uncontrolled logging under authority of Colonel Virakchet, MR1
Kratie: 20,000m3 of logs stockpiled by MR2 near Vietnamese border.
Kompong Thom: Logs cut by Colexim in wildlife sanctuary. Lang song International harvesting logs despite no permission to cut from DFW.
Siem Reap: Concessions of Samrong Wood and Phnom Kulen national park logged out by Division 11 MR4 and former KR. MR4 granted concession in national park, authorised by Hun Sen and Ung Huot in May 1998.
Banteay Meanchey: Luxury species exported to Thailand as sawn timber and furniture - severely depleting this rare species.
Battambang: Luxury species exported to Thailand as sawn timber and furniture - severely depleting this rare species. -Numerous Thai sawmills throughout former KR territory around Pailin.
Koh Kong: Mai Voot Tee exporting logs to Japan, Thailand and Indonesia. - MR3, especially division 5, and former KR control exploitation of sawn timber and export to Thailand (currently halted).
· Provincial governor authorises illegal activities by MR3.
Press Release / Jan. 22, 1999