Cambodia’s borders were closed to log exports, effective from 31st December 1996. Global Witness’ eighth investigation along the Thai-Cambodia border between 7th-15th January confirmed the closure to logs, but that exports of rough sawn timber continued.
“We are very encouraged by the official closure of the borders, it shows that if the will is there theRGC can enforce forestry regulations even in areas of former KR control.” Said Patrick Alley ofGlobal Witness. “But the good news should not divert attention from the illegality of most of thetimber that left Cambodia in December, which raises questions of corruption at the highest level.” Global Witness have received reports from Banteay Meanchey that rough sawn timber, described as railway ties, is being transported, in quantity, towards the Thai border.
This suggests that it is highly likely that this timber will cross the border into Thailand. Global Witness obtained Thai Customs figures for log imports during December, the first month that Thai companies had been able to export. Figures up to 27th December for Trat and Chantaburi Province show 9 companies imported 120,000m3 of logs worth US$42 million-US$96 million, at world market rates, from Cambodia, most of it was fresh cut, long after the April 1995 deadline.According to the RGC none of these companies had contracts (see Notes to Editors for full list).
“The RGC needs to explain who gave permission for the companies to export the logs, where did the money go and how will they prevent further log exports in the future” Said Patrick Alley.
International pressure has played the key role in closing the border from both sides, but as a senior official of the Thai-Cambodia Border Commission in Aranyaprathet confirmed “both countries need to look good right now, but after February we [the Thai government] can help the Thai companies export logs.”
“The interest and concern of the international donors has played a major role in the border closures,” Said Charmian Gooch of Global Witness. “and this focus will be essential in the immediate future, particularly to ensure that RCAF enforce the border closure.”
Despite the border closure it is an open secret that RCAF control logging in many areas in Cambodia. Secret documents obtained by Global Witness detail RCAF General Ke Kim Yan’s request to the Co-Prime Ministers to confiscate 30,000m3 of logs (see Notes to Editors) in Koh Kong Province, to be sold to Thai logging company Voot Tee Peanich Import Export Co Ltd, to directly finance RCAF operations for the 1995/6 dry season offensive. The documents include the Prime Ministers approval, orders issued to RCAF units and applications for Voot Tee to bring logging equipment into Thailand. The documents have not been copied to the Ministry of Finance. “Here you have the Chief of Staff obtaining approval from the 2 Prime Ministers to export freshly cut timber to Thailand, with the money going directly to RCAF, “said Charmian Gooch, “this confirms the existence of a parallel budget in the hands of the military.”
On 20th January 1997 loaded log trucks were seen leaving remote areas of Kirirom National Park escorted by RCAF troops, in an operation controlled by the local Colonel. The trucks use roads barred by road blocks and “Danger Mines” signs, put up to deter onlookers. See Notes to Editors.
News release: 22nd January 1997 ctd. Notes to Editors:
Key findings from the border investigation: According to preliminary official Thai statistics dated 27th December 1996 the following quantities of logs were imported into Trat and Chantaburi Provinces during December. Final figures up to 31st December will be around 20% higher.
Suan Pha Siam Forestry 62,000
SA Pharmaceutical 13,000
Sor Containers 7,800
Philler Products 7,859
Kanchanaburi Saw Mill 6,431
Hua Weing Saw Mill 2,613
Enterprise TSD 6,600
PT Agricultural 11,000
Maka Centre Co. 3,000
Only two Thai companies had contracts with the RGC, BLP Import/Export in Ubon Ratchathani Province, which has imported logs, and Chao Praya Akanay, which imported a small quantity of logs which do not appear on Thai Customs figures.
All of the companies talked to claimed they had paid the RGC; and having managed to export less than half the amount they had sought, many were talking of disinvesting in Cambodian timber, and leaving the border area.
Thai timber companies were unable to export logs before December because of the rains, which made logging roads impassable.
Timber company personnel, including log truck drivers, noted that RCAF soldiers were present at all the Cambodian checkpoints opposite Trat and Chantaburi Provinces, and that they outnumbered the former KR soldiers (who were also wearing RCAF uniforms), by approximately 10 to 4. Payments have to made to both.
Companies and truck drivers described road building activity to drive deeper into the concessions in Cambodia to bring out more cut logs. They plan to bring these to Rest Areas just inside Cambodia which are close to Rest Areas in Thailand. The companies are lobbying the Thai Government and negotiating with RCAF units to get the timber out.
Imports of roughly processed timber into Kalapandha continues, and has increased. Global Witness also reported that around 750,000m3 of sawn timber, worth over US$250 million a year, is illegally imported into the south-eastern Thai port of Kalapandha from Cambodia’s Koh Kong Province, in a rapidly expanding trade. Global Witness saw over 35 boats, fully loaded with timber, triple moored, waiting to be unloaded. When is the Thai-Cambodia Border Commission going to do something about this?
Global Witness focuses on areas where profits from environmental exploitation fund human rights abuses. 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. GlobalWitness has no political affiliation.
Press Release / Jan. 22, 1997