The Royal Thai Government finally appears to be cooperating with the Cambodian Government(RGC) over logging, but Britsh NGO, Global Witness, whilst welcoming this, is concerned that the recent border closure will be short lived. The NGO has just returned from an investigation along the Thai-Cambodia border, where they saw over 120,000m3 of illegally felled
logs, worth between US$42 million - US$96 million on the world market, stacked in rest areas near the border in Trat and Chantaburi Provinces. "Most of the logs were cut after the RGC's 30th April 1995 deadline, which means, under Cambodian law, they were illegally cut, so according to that
law, should be confiscated and auctioned domestically in Cambodia." Said Patrick Alley of Global Witness.
"The Thai Government will need to stand firm against the lobbying of Thai timber companies, who are currently negotiating to bring out more logs. The companies seem to be hoping that once the international spotlight is off this issue they can go back to cutting and importing more logs." Said
Charmian Gooch of Global Witness.
A senior official at the Thai-Cambodia Border Commission, based in Aranyaprathet, confirmed this, saying that both countries needed to look good right now but that in the future the Thai government would help the Thai companies export logs, a task which should become easier after February.
Thailand has been under pressure from the international community to cooperate with Cambodia to support the Cambodian timber export ban. In addition the US Government is concerned about possible Thai support for the hardline Khmer Rouge (KR) in Anlong Veng by facilitating the timber trade.
The US can cut military aid to Thailand under the US FY97 Foreign Operations Act if such support can be proved, a US State Department report is due on 1st February 1996. Global Witness is surprised that the logging companies have been given advance warning of the impending border visit by US
officials, giving them time to ensure that the US team find nothing illegal. The RGC is under pressure from its international donors to enforce logging regulations, following the loss of a US$20 million tranche of the IMF's structural adjustment facility in October 1996. In February the RGC will be
discussing future tranches with the IMF, and loans with the World Bank.
Global Witness is concerned that the Thai Government has failed to fully close the border, because it has not taken any action to close Kalapandha, a small fishing harbour in Trat Province, to the increasing imports of around 750,000m3 of sawn timber, worth a minimum of US$250 million a year, which is illegally imported from Cambodia's Koh Kong Province.
"We have been to Kalapandha eight times in the past two years and every time we report illegal timber imports," said Alley. "Usually, despite the evidence, we get a denial from the Thai government. This time a Customs official admitted to imports of 1,000m3 a month (over 40 times less than the
true figure) and told us not to bother to go there as 'nothing much was happening'. We went there and saw over 35 boats, fully loaded with timber, triple moored, waiting to be unloaded. We've got the film and photos to prove this. When is the Thai government and Thai-Cambodia Border Commission
going to do something about this?"
See Notes to Editors. Further Information: Global Witness T. 01 913 9275.
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.
Global Witness has no political affiliation.
The revised FY 97 Foreign Operations Act was signed into law on 28th September 1996. It reads:
"...none of the funds appropriated by this Act may be available to any country or organization that the Secretary of State determines is cooperating tactically or strategically with the Khmer Rouge in their
military operations, or to the military of any country that the Secretary of State determines is not acting vigorously to prevent its members from facilitating the export of timber from Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge..."
Furthermore the Secretary of State is also required to "submit a report on February 1st, 1997, to the Committees on Appropriations, whether such assistance is being prohibited..."
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 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
Cambodia's forest cover has declined from around 70% of land area in the early 1970's to 30-35% today. Forest loss affects Cambodia's agricultural base (rice and fisheries), its environment and economy. The environmental effects, such as floods and droughts, will not be confined to Cambodia, but will also affect Cambodia's neighbours, including Thailand.
Press Release / Jan. 13, 1997