Press Release / Jan. 26, 2001

Systematic Abuse threatens Forest Reform

In a briefing document released today Cambodia's official independent forestry monitor, Global Witness, warn of a massive increase in illegal logging. The Return of Large-Scale Illegal Logging exposes the involvement of several key concessionaires in illegal logging and laundering illegal logs, potentially defrauding the RGC of millions of dollars. These activities are made possible by the collusion of officials in the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW) and the corrupt judicial system.

Since Hun Sen's January 1999 crackdown Cambodia's forestry reform process made dramatic progress, illegal logging declined dramatically and the Cambodia model has rightly received international attention and acclaim. But the current dry season has seen an alarming increase in illegal logging, in particular by concessionaires, with the acquiescence and/or support of many forestry staff. The trend set by current levels of illegal logging could herald a return to the massive exploitation that took place prior to the crackdown.

"The pledges of the RGC and the commitment of the Director-General of the DFW are being undermined by officials under their control" said Jon Buckrell of Global Witness. "Over the past few weeks the investigation teams of the DFW's Legislation and Law Enforcement Office (LLO) have successfully avoided carrying out any meaningful investigation of the Everbright Factory and its Kratie concession, and have actively obstructed our own".

Recent Global Witness investigations have exposed illegal logging by Everbright in its Kratie concession and indications of massive fraud in Everbright's and Kingwood's Kandal factories. Global Witness' inspectors were physically manhandled by Everbright's guards, and on another occasion prevented from entering Everbright's factory despite the issuance of a court order allowing inspection on 19th January. A massive 88% of logs sampled in Kingwood's factory did not match DFW records.

"Under Hun Sen's leadership the possibility of forestry reform has become a reality. The RGC's commitment to preservation of the central Cardamoms, and to the concept of forestry reform has been amazing over the past year" said Buckrell. "In the lead up to Monday's post CG meeting, and to the 2001 CG meeting itself, the government must take action to ensure the escalation of illegal logging is stopped. The most logical step is to suspend and cancel those concessions who continue to log illegally and to defraud the government - they have proved they are incapable of, and are unwilling to reform".