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CITES bans rosewood trade

rosewood
A cache of freshly cut young rosewood logs are hidden amongst trees in the Central Cardomom Protected Forest in Koh Kong province in 2011. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

A highly valuable species of rosewood that has been logged to near extinction in Cambodia, pushing illegal loggers to risk their lives crossing the border into Thailand in search of the luxury wood, was added to an international index forbidding its sale yesterday.

The 177 member states of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) unanimously agreed to add Siam rosewood, or Dalbergia cochinchinensis, to the CITES index.

Among the signatories are China – the biggest importer of the luxury wood – Cambodia and Thailand.
Thousands of cubic metres of the wood are traded from Cambodia to China each year, though as stocks have dried up in the Kingdom, the volume exported has declined.  

That has pushed Cambodian loggers and the syndicates that back them into Thailand.

Last year, 45 Cambodians were shot by Thai forces after crossing the border, allegedly seeking to illegally log.

Faith Doherty, head of the forest campaign team at the Environmental Investigation Agency United Kingdom, said yesterday that the CITES listing of Siam rosewood gives a range of countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam a mechanism to tackle its illegal felling together.

“We need to go for the guys behind it, not the loggers on the ground. As I say, we have a mandate; we have to go for the big guys behind it.”

“The question now is, those four range states, given their corruption and weak governments, whether there truly is the political will to adhere to this listing,” she said.

All four countries already ban logging the species, but despite this, the rosewood trade has grown to a business worth hundreds of millions a year.

Doherty said the EIA would now be strictly monitoring the rosewood trade and investigating those behind it.

However, it stressed that unless China backed its support of the listing with concrete actions to stop the trade, the outlook for rosewood stocks would remain grim.

Thun Sarath, deputy director of the department of administration, planning and finance at the Forestry Administration, directed questions to FA director general Chheng Kimsun, who could not be reached.

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