THE environmental watchdog group Global Witness (GW) fears that the Gov-ernment's
domestic timber requirements will become the most serious cause of illegal logging
GW's May 2000 report, Chainsaws Speak Louder Than Words, said government demands
that logging concessionaires supply 10-to-20 percent of their harvest for local use,
while still having to pay Government royalties, will lead to further forest depletion.
The 10-to-20 percent requirement was Point One of Prime Minister Hun Sen's January
25, 1999, 17 point declaration to crackdown on illegal logging.
Hun Sen declared: "Only authorized concession holders will carry out timber
extraction as directed by the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW). Requirements
for timber for domestic consumption will be supplied by authorized concessions, for
which concessions will allocate 10-to-20 per cent of their annual harvest in compliance
with DFW procedures and at a reasonable price."
GW said the requirement forces the price of timber to more than $100-$200 per cubic
meter, a level local people cannot afford.
"Local people have no option but to either cut the timber themselves or buy
from sources other than concessionaires; the imposition of the concession system
has made both these practices illegal," says the report.
People who were previously allowed to cut timber for local use have now been turned
into criminals by the concession system, and most forest crimes are now of this sort,
It says the sheer number of these cases will hamper the efforts of the Department
of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW) and the Ministry of Environment (MoE) investigating
units when it comes the more destructive illegal logging of concessionaires, RCAF,
and powerful provincial business interests.
In Ratanakkiri, for example, the Taiwanese-owned Hero Company has been unable to
sell the 10-to-20 percent quota locally, as it is undercut by illegal operators which
can supply timber for between $70-to-$90 per cubic meter on the local market..
So while in theory Hero sells 100 percent of its quota allowance where it can get
the best price, there is unregulated cutting of the forest to supply local needs
both inside and outside Hero's concession.
"Part of the solution," said GW, "is to speed up the establishment
of community forests, although this might satisfy much of the local demand, more
work has to be carried out to find ways to satisfy demand at a national level without
encouraging illegal exports."
But according to the GW report, Hero is not just merely a victim of Cambodia's concession
system, but also one of the major culprits of illegal logging - on a scale which
GW said is "breathtaking, even by the standards of Cambodian forestry".
But the report said it is not just Hero's illegal logging, but the way concession
land is allocated by the Government without consulting traditional tribal owners,
that jeopardizes the cultures and livelihoods of Cambodia's indigenous peoples.