Press Release / Feb. 5, 1997

Thai government statements on the Cambodian logging issue have attempted to whitewash the politicians involved

Thai government statements on the Cambodian logging issue have attempted to whitewash the politicians involved, and Thai government policy, by inferring that Global Witness has no evidence to back up its claims. Global Witness wishes to clarify these issues.

1. Global Witness has visited the Thai/Cambodia border 8 times and has conducted secretly filmed interviews with Thai officials, and with the owners, managers and employees of logging companies. These interviews, comprising over 100 hours of footage, expose actual Thai policy on the cross border logging trade, and contain many detailed allegations of high level corruption, naming various politicians.

Global Witness will be making this evidence available to the Thai press within the next few weeks.

2. Over 120,000m3 of logs were imported into Thailand from Cambodia during December 1996. These imports were illegal because the 9 Thai logging companies had no contract with the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), and had not paid the Cambodian Ministry of Finance. Furthermore, the vast majority of the logs were felled after the RGC deadline of 30th April 1995, compounding the illegality of the deals. The Thai government is on record as saying they would prohibit the importation of newly cut timber, which they have failed to do. Global Witness has film and photographic evidence to back up these claims.

As the Thai logging companies have illegally imported illegally felled logs they have no legitimate claim to them, therefore it would be inappropriate for the Thai government to assist these companies to retrieve the remaining stockpiles. These logs should be confiscated and auctioned to the highest bidder (not including the 9 illegally operating companies) with the revenues going to the RGC Ministry of Finance.

3. The Thai government and military have consistently denied the existence of the vast illegal imports of rough sawn timber into Kalapandha harbour in Trat province, although Klong Yai Customs have admitted, to the BBC amongst others, that the trade is illegal, and has been since 30th April 1995. Now that the trade has finally been halted the local [illegal] timber traders claim their businesses are in jeopardy. As their businesses are founded on illegal trade the Thai government should have no option but to enforce the Cambodian ban.

4. The Thai press are concerned that Global Witness only criticises the Thai government and Thai companies. This is not true. Global Witness' constant criticism of the Cambodian government's appalling forestry record has played an important role in bringing international pressure to bear on them, including the IMF's tough stance, which is resulting in reforms of forest policy. Global Witness has also criticised the records of Malaysian and other foreign timber companies for their role in Cambodia and, in particular, Japan, for permitting imports of Cambodian timber.

For an accurate résumé of Global Witness' investigations, allegations and recommendations the following reports are available by post, e-mail and are also on the internet, at the above website.

Forests, Famine & War... March 1995, Thai - Khmer Rouge Links & the Illegal Trade in Cambodia's Timber - May 1995, Corruption, War & Forest Policy....February 1996, RGC Forest Policy & Practice, the Case for Positive Conditionality - May 1996, Cambodia, Where Money Grows on Trees - October 1996