Thailand’s recent elections have brought in a new administration and a return to the porous border situation not seen since May 1995.
Global Witness’ seventh investigation along the Thai/ Cambodia border set out to monitor the efficacy of Cambodia's robust log export measures. Findings show that although all but one of Cambodia’s opened border check points remain closed, Thai loggers with high level political and military backing are rushing to take advantage of the fact that the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) is denied control of it’s western borders despite KR integration. “These loggers made deals with the KR, now they deal with the DNUM or the RCAF. The point is that the loggers are dealing with the same individuals as before”. said Patrick Alley of Global Witness.
According to the RGC only two companies from the Ministry of Agriculture's 30th June short list (BLP Import/Export & Chao Praya Akanay) have fulfilled the conditions set out by the government for the export of logs. “ When Tao Seng Huor visited An Mah Pass yesterday BLP claimed it had not yet exported any logs, but last week we saw 3,000-4,000m3 in their rest area.” said Alley. Five further companies (Suan Pha Siam Forestry, SA Pharmaceutical, PT Agricultural, Sor Containers & Philler Products) have given letters of credit (L/C's) to the RGC but have not signed any contracts with the government despite repeated requests. Chantaburi Romporoow have not even deposited an L/C. The other companies on the list have not fulfilled any of the conditions, including TSD which has a major operation at Samlot, visited by Hun Sen, Teng Boonma, TSD's owner and Malaysian investors on the 12th December 1996.
PT Agricultural in Chantaburi Province and Suan Pha Siam Forestry, Pipat Forestry and Sor Containers in Trat are currently importing large quantities of new cut logs, in contravention of the RGC's June 19th communiqué. "Around 50% of the logs we have seen were cut in the last three months, the rest are all less than a year old. This makes them all illegal regardless of the status of
the border check points" said Simon Taylor of Global Witness. "Other companies including the Maka Centre Co., Chantaburi Romphoroow and PT Agricultural all said that their logs were new and would be imported as soon as road conditions improved. TSD have already imported a large amount of timber which is stored in Thailand close to the border."
"The independent monitors appointed by the RGC are not due to commence work until 13th January 1997. It will take them at least three months to set up a control system so right now there is a free for all going on" said Taylor. "We are calling upon the RGC to seal the border immediately and to request Thai cooperation to allow Cambodian officials to visit the rest areas in Thailand to identify and seize illegally imported logs, until such time as the monitors are in place. The Royal Government should also demand that Thailand immediately closes its border checkpoints to support Cambodian policy."
Thailand has opened numerous checkpoints including Chongsa-ngam, just north of the hard- line KR stronghold of Anlong Veng. Hua Weing Sawmill and SRR Co. (neither company has export approval from the RGC) expect to receive logs, cut and transported to the Thai border by the Khukan Aroonsawat Co. "This is a return to Thai cooperation with the KR, throwing this besieged group a
lifeline. This isn't just facilitation by the Thai military, it has the sanction of the Thai Government at the highest levels," said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. Global Witness were informed by the Khukan Aroonsawat Co. That their sawmill was built on land owned by the notorious KR General, Ta Mok. Then company went on to say that the PTT gas station and newly constructed hotel at Khukan's Lalom junction was part of a Baht 300 million (US$12 million) KR investment handled by a close relative of Pol Pot, and his Thai wife. The investment also includes an unnamed Bangkok hotel. Pol Pot's daughter, nicknamed 'Muay', enters Thailand regularly to check these investments.
"In allowing the opening of Chongsa-ngam to export logs from a hardline KR zone the Thai government and military are risking the full implications of the US FY97 Foreign Operations Act." said Patrick Alley . Global Witness will visit Washington DC to provide evidence to the State Department and Congress before the due reporting date of 1st February 1997.
A major concern is that none of the companies have fulfilled verification procedures laid down by the RGC and are therefore operating illegally. In particular the Maka Centre Co. only received an RGC permit on 4th September, for 28,000m3, over two months after the 30th June deadline for submission to the Ministry of Agriculture. “RGC sources are secretly saying that the 31st December export deadline might be extended until April, but there are no signs of compromise from the IMF on this issue; it will be an interesting new year.” Whatever happens the monitors will need to be vigorous in the confiscation of any logs cut after 30th April 1995. If the loggers get away with these illegal imports it will be a repetition of their old practices. They'll simply keep on cutting." said Taylor.
It appears that the RGC is making efforts to control the exports of logs into Thailand, as illustrated by the appointment of independent monitors. "True to form Thai politicians and the military are safeguarding their own income by riding roughshod over their neighbour's interests." Both Suan Pha Siam and Sor Containers owners spoke of pay-offs to the Thai leadership. "Loggers complained that Prime Minister Banharn was asking for increasingly large amounts of money, and delayed opening the border check points. Only when he knew he had lost the Premiership did he approve their opening. This is very unconventional in Thai politics, and not exactly a great example of international cooperation, especially amongst potential ASEAN partners", said Alley.
Of particular interest is the role of General Chavalit and his wife. He attended a meeting in the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok on the 18th January 1996 with the Minister of Agriculture, Tao Seng Huor, and the Cambodian Ambassador, the same day that representatives of thirteen Thai logging companies attended meetings at the Embassy. General Chavalit should clarify his role at this
meeting. His wife met an interpreter for BLP Import/Export on the 8th September 1996 at Ponchentong Airport. Thai loggers said that Chavalit was good for their business. On the 12th December an opposition Thai MP raised Chavalit's role in logging, in the Thai Parliament. "There's a lot of smoke here, I wonder if there's a fire?" said Taylor.
For further information contact Global Witness on: Tel: + 44 181 563 7779, Fax: + 44 181 563 8613, email: [email protected], or c/o the FCCC in Phnom Penh.
GLOBAL WITNESS INVESTIGATION 5 - 10 DECEMBER 1996
RGC REGULATIONS RELATING TO LOG EXPORTS
The above regulations are detailed on page 6 of Global Witness' October 1996 report “Cambodia, Where Money Grows on Trees”. This report also provides further details of the companies listed below.
It should be noted that none of the Thai based timber companies operating across the Thai/Cambodian
border have had their timber stockpiles verified. This document classifies companies according to their compliance with RGC regulations concerning the export of "already felled" timber. It should be further noted that only timber cut before the RGC timber export ban of May 1st 1995 is eligible for export.
Companies which have signed contracts and opened letters of credit (L/C's) with the RGC:
BLP Import/Export Co. Ltd: Operate across the Chong An Mah checkpoint. BLP had their stockpile "verified" by the RGC, but BLP later told Global Witness that 50% was fresh cut
- this 50% is illegal. BLP have 3000 - 4,000 m3 of logs in their rest area, awaiting inspection by Thai
customs. Close inspection was not possible, but logs looked new. BLP claim to have a further
70,000 m3 of logs in Cambodia, but are unsure when imports to Thailand will be possible.
Chao Praya Akanay: Trat Province. According to neighbouring Sor Containers owner, this company
recently received a permit from the out-going Banharn Government for 30,000 - 40,000 m3. No logs were yet visible.
Companies which have opened L/C's, but which do not have a contract with the RGC:
Suan Pha Siam Forestry: Trat Province. Claim to have 100,000 m3 quota, but also claims a further
100,000 m3 which the company would like to export to Thailand. They cannot meet the 31st December deadline and have written to Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand requesting an extension until April 1997. The company would like to extend export deadline for two years. The owner stated that some logs are about 1 year old, some younger and some older. Suan Pha have started to import logs. 20 - 30% of the logs in the rest area were clearly only a few months old.
Sor Containers: Trat Province. The sign at the gate of the rest area still says Wooden Supply
Import/Export Company. S Containers have commenced importing of logs. 1,000 - 2,000 m3 of logs were in their rest area, and they expect a total of 40,000 m3. Log trucks were arriving at about six trucks each hour. The company rest area contained workshops, a large fuel dump and numerous bulldozers; a substantial industrial scale operation. The owner claimed that around 10% of logs were newly cut, but roughly 50% of logs in the rest area were a maximum 3/4 months old, with the remainder being less than a year old. They are all illegal. The owner also stated that the Thai Government had given a permit for two years, and that the company possesses a further 100,000 m3 at Chong An Mah, which they expect to import in one month.
PT Agricultural: Located in Chantaburi Province. The company had around 700 m3 of Maka logs in the rest area. The majority were 3/4 months old, with the remainder around one year old. These logs are illegal. The company expects another 20,000 m3 of logs, but must wait until the road is repaired. The father of the manager is an official of the Chantaburi Forestry Department. The company has a further operation in the Bo Rai area of Trat Province, where they expect to import MaiYang (rubber wood).
Philler Products and SA Pharmaceuticals in Trat Province have also opened L/ C's with the RGC.
According to the owner of S Containers, Philler Products expect 40,000 m3.
Companies which have not complied with any RGC regulations concerning log exports:
Pipat Forestry: Trat Province. Expect roughly 40,000 m3 of logs (the "million metre deal” specified 82,866m3). The company has started to import, with some logs less than 3/4 months old, others
being roughly one year and some are older.
TSD: Trat Province. The company has already imported fresh cut logs which are stored in Thailand, near to the Thai/Cambodian border. TSD received a 10,686m3 allocation in "million metre deal".
Chantaburi Romphoroow: Chantaburi and Trat Provinces. Company expecting 900 newly cut logs
and 2000 approximately 1 year old at Chantaburi. Company is waiting for road repairs and will then
The Maka Centre Co: Located in Chantaburi. The company is clearing a rest area for expected imports of logs. The Governor of Chantaburi Province was due to inspect the rest area on 9th December. The company expects to import 20,000 m3 of logs in this area, and a further 8,000 m3 near Aranyaprathet. This company received a permit signed by the Co-Prime Ministers on September 4th 1996, for 28,000 m3 of logs. However, the Maka Centre could not have logs which were cut before the May 1st 1995 timber export ban, as, in May 1995, they stated they had no logs. In September 1995, the Maka Centre stated they had 10,000 m3 of logs. This means that more than 50% of the Maka Centre's logs must be nine months old or less, and none of their logs are legal.
Santi Forestry: Located in Trat Province. Santi are preparing to import logs. Santi were also an
original applicant for the "million meter" deal, but where unsuccessful as they did not appear on the final version of the deal.
Chakapong Kamai: Located in Chantaburi Province. Expect approximately 7, 500m3 of logs. Their rest area was being newly prepared in September 1996, and a worker indicated that the company may import logs in January 1997.
Karnjana Buri: Trat Province. Allocated roughly 50,000 m3 of logs in the "million meter" deal.
Companies with Khmer Rouge Connections:
The Hua Weing Sawmill Company and SRR Company subcontract to the Khukan Aroonsawat
Company and are located in Sisaket Province. The operations of these three companies are of major
concern as they will import logs from the hard-line KR area of Anlong Veng across the Chongsa-ngam checkpoint, which has been opened by the Thai Government.
Khukan Aroonsawat Company: The company is operating in Cambodia, with logs being cut by the
KR. The company will transport the timber to the border for further transport by Hua Weing and SRR to the rest area located roughly 10 Km north of the border, which is adjacent to a Thai Military base.
Hua Weing Sawmill Company: Workers stated that they expect 10,000 m3 of logs. However the
"million meter" deal allocated them 20,000 m3 at Chongsa-ngam and a further 20,000 m3 in Bo Rai district of Trat.
SRR Company: Expect roughly 16,500 m3 of logs.
Thailand’s recent elections have brought in a new administration and a return to the porous border situation not seen since May 1995.