Aerial reconnaissance of the Cardamoms by Global Witness on the 26th May has uncovered systematic illegal logging by the concessionaire; Malaysian logging giant GAT International. On the same day the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) announced its “firm intention” to take the Cardamoms out of concession, at the Consultative Group meeting (CG) in Paris.
“I hope this irony will not be lost on the RGC, the ADB, the World Bank, the IMF, the FAO and others who do not support contract termination and a moratorium on concession activity.” said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. “On the one hand everyone agrees that the concessionaires are currently incapable of operating a concession, on the other the same institutions are prepared to entrust Cambodia’s forests to the very companies that are conducting the illegal logging. The position is untenable.”
Global Witness accompanied a Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW) inspection team back to the GAT concession within days of the submission of a crime report. 777 illegally cut logs worth $104,895 to the Cambodian treasury, at the current royalty rate of $54 per m3, were found in two separate GAT rest areas. Mr Leang, the GAT Koh Kong Concession Manager, admitted to the inspection team that GAT had cut logs when it had no permit to cut and collected and transported logs when it had no permit for log collection or transportation.
“These new findings also call into question the veracity of GAT’s explanation that the 4,000 logs seized by the DFW in late 1999 were anarchically cut. The DFW should question GAT’s management very closely about these logs and at the very least GAT should not be allowed to bid for them when they come up for public auction.“ said Alley.
Mr Leang further admitted that GAT had continued to construct a large logging road until 30th May, despite being asked by the director of the Forestry Department Ty Sokhun not to do so a month earlier, and that his company had illegally cut logs in Samling International’s concession; a fellow member of the Cambodia Timber Industry Association (CTIA).
“GAT’s arrogance is breathtaking. Not only has this company disregarded a direct request by Ty Sokhun to stop building its logging road it has also illegally logged in a neighbouring concession operated by Henry Kong, boss of Samling International and CTIA spokesman.” said Jon Buckrell. “The CTIA have consistently argued, as they did at the CG in Paris and at the ADB Concession Review workshop before then, that the forests would disappear if the concessionaires were not there to protect them. This case clearly demonstrates that GAT has logged illegally and that Samling was incapable of preventing it; I doubt Samling even noticed.” said Buckrell.
Global Witness is calling on the RGC to demonstrate its commitment to forestry reform by suspending all activity in the Cardamoms immediately and cancelling the GAT concession for major breach of contract. The RGC should also prosecute Samling for failing to protect its concession as (clause 7 of Hun Sen’s January 1999, 17 Point Declaration). In addition both concessionaires should be expelled from the CTIA for “conduct derogatory to the dignity or injurious to the reputation or interests of the Association,” (clause 2.6.1 CTIA Memorandum and Articles of Association).
Global Witness, Tel: + 44 (0)20 7272 6731; Fax: + 44 (0)20 7272 9425;
Press Release / June 8, 2000