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Chavalit and timber

The Editor,

T

he articles published in the Phnom Penh Post on September 20, l996 and in the

Nation on September 26 1996 reproduced new accusations emanating from Global Witness

and which call for again a certain number of clarifications.

On April 10, l996 I asked you to publish a communiqué in the Phnom Penh Post

which re-established the truth on the problem of exporting, by private Thai companies,

cut wood before April 30, l995. As I indicated to you, I met His Excellency Chavalit

Yongchaiyuth, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Royal Thai Government,

on Jan 18, l996 and then on May 13.

These meetings were held for the sole purpose of finalising the conditions for implementing

the control mechanisms for the export of wood before April 30, l996 and to reinforce

the lines of cooperation with regard to stopping anarchistic cutting and the illegal

export of wood on the Cambodian-Thai border.

Contrary to assertions reproduced in your respective articles not one contract was

signed between His Excellency Chavalit and myself. His Excellency Chavalit, moreover,

has never acted as a representative of Thai companies.

At the same time the two Prime Ministers of the Royal Cambodian Government have never

negotiated nor signed any contract whatsoever with His Excellency Chavalit.

As I have already written you on April 10, l996 the two Prime Ministers have given

exclusively, at the national level, their agreement in principle to requests, presented

by Thai companies, to export wood cut before April 30, l995. The conditions and the

controls were defined in the joint communiqué of June 19, l996 of the Ministry

of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

This agreement in principle was not a contract.

The Thai companies which have complied with the obligations cited in the communiqué

and which are imposed on them, could sign at the national level contracts authorizing

them to export. At the moment of exportation a double control is again effectuated,

one in Cambodia and the other in Thailand.

Moreover I add again that should it happen that new wood is cut in spite of the existing

controls, the wood would be seized.

Criticism is easy especially when it is not well-founded. It would be interesting

to know the real motives which push Global Witness to so accuse the Royal Government

of Cambodia and that of Thailand. Rather than systematically denigrating the two

governments Global Witness could more usefully propose practical and constructive

measures to reinforce the forestry policies adopted by the Government.

It is regrettable that, once again, your newspaper echoes some false accusations

against the Royal Government of Cambodia.

- Office of Tao Seng Hour, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,

Phnom Penh.

(Unofficial translation from French)

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