LAO loggers have been illegally felling trees on Cambodian soil - allegedly with
the connivance of Lao soldiers - sparking high-level discussions between the two
A Cambodian delegation including Minister of Agriculture Tao
Senghour visited Vientaine in January to raise the issue.
the Post that he had heard that Lao military personnel had been involved, though
it was possible they were rogue soldiers or civilian gunmen.
logging near the Laotian border was believed to have been going on since before
UNTAC days, he said, but it was not clear how big the current operation
Senghour said the Laos government had agreed to cooperate with
Cambodian officials to combat such logging and smuggling along the
"I hope we would stop the illegal logging if the Laos government
would be loyal on the issue.
"I have already ordered my staff to
confiscate all timber and logs cut without approval.
"But...we have had
some problem with various gunmen in the forests protecting their
He said he did not know if the loggers were working in cooperation
with local Cambodian authorities, or whether the logs passed through official
Lao border checkpoints.
Cambodian firms were also conducting logging near
the border. Three of the four firms involved did not have approval to log, he
The government did permit some logging in the area, and had
recently contracted a Lao firm to import already cut logs before a Cambodian ban
on timber exports took effect on April 30.
Nhim Vanda, special envoy of
the Cambodian co-Prime Ministers and president of the Timber Export Committee,
is understood to have been among a delegation of officials who visited illegal
logging areas in the past three months.
He refused to comment, saying he
had handed the issue over to other people.
The Post has been told that
the logging has been conducted as far as 4km inside the Cambodian border in Siem
Pang district of Stung Treng province.
A source alleged that local
companies and authorities were involved in the scheme, and the Cambodian
government was reluctant to raise the issue publicly for fear of jeopardizing
relations between Cambodia and Laos.
It is understood that Cambodian
state television TVK visited the area some months ago, and found what appeared
to be a camp of Lao soldiers on Cambodian territory.
TVK were instructed
by Cambodian officials not to film the soldiers.
Illegal logging by
foreign firms has been a long-standing complaint of the Cambodian government,
but most often regarding Thai firms working along Cambodia's western
Ly Thuch, Under Secretary State of the Environment - whose recent
comments about Thai involvement in logging and mining drew a sharp response from
the Thai government - said such action was endangering Cambodia's
"If the government does not take strong measures against
this logging, we will have a big problem with Cambodian wildlife."
Treng is one of Cambodia's most heavily forested provinces with logging-related
activities the primary source of income there. The province maintains a large
ethnic Lao population whereby in many villages, Lao is the dominant