Everbright's logs rest at Romoul village, Kratie Province.
A China-based logging concessionaire being investigated for illegal logging has filed
a criminal trespassing complaint against staff of the Department of Forestry and
Wildlife (DFW), and the environmental monitoring organization, Global Witness (GW).
Everbright CIG Wood Company Ltd. filed the criminal complaint on Jan 15 in the wake
of legally-mandated inspections of Everbright's mill in Kandal Province by DFW and
GW spokesperson Jon Buckrell said Everbright is logging illegally both in its Kratie
concession and in its neighboring Pheapimex concession. And investigators have found
significant quantities of unmarked illegal logs in Everbright's Mekong rest area
and at its plywood factory outside Phnom Penh.
"Everbright is stealing these logs from the Cambodian people and defrauding
the government of much needed revenue. The government cannot afford to tolerate such
systematic abuse and should cancel Everbright's concession," said Buckrell.
The inspection of the mill was triggered by a January 3 GW surveillance flight over
Everbright's concession. Inspectors saw considerable illegal logging taking place
in the company's Coupe Two - an area in which logging is currently prohibited.
GW photographed and noted many log stockpiles, as well as large machinery loading
timber onto trucks within Coupe Two. Precise locations of this activity were established
GW investigators followed up that surveillance flight by arriving at Everbright's
Kandal Province mill on January 12 with a letter, signed by the Secretary of State
for the Council of Ministers, Sum Manith, allowing GW to inspect the concession and
The letter asks all concession directors, military commanders, and customs officials
to "collaborate with, facilitate and ensure Global Witness representatives receive
open access to all forest land areas including forest concessions, protected areas,
land concession areas and other forest lands; and to related roads, storage, transport
and export facilities..."
Everbright staff initially ignored the letter and denied investigators access to
"We showed Everbright security staff our letters of authorization from the Government
but they refused to let us in," said Buckrell.
When DFW was informed that Everbright staff were preventing an inspection, a four-man
team from the DFW's Litigation and Legislation Office (LLO) was dispatched to the
mill with a mission letter signed by DFW's Director General Ty Sokhun.
After consultation with the DFW officials, mill staff allowed the inspection to begin,
bringing to an end the six-hour standoff.
"A preliminary inspection by DFW and Global Witness showed that a high proportion
of the logs were unmarked and therefore illegal," said Buckrell. An estimated
650 logs were in the yard waiting processing.
Any log at a mill without a stamp has been unrecorded and illegally transported and
the Government will not receive a royalty payment for that log.
Before returning to Phnom Penh on night of January 12, the DFW's LLO team told Everbright
mill managers that the inspected logs should be secured as evidence.
'"DFW told the company not to move the timber but the following day the stockpile
had disappeared and logs outside the mill, previously unmarked, had been illegally
hammer stamped," said Buckrell.
Returning to the mill on January 13, LLO officials were blocked by Everbright guards
from entering the grounds to resume their inspection.
Efforts by the LLO officials to seek legal recourse from the Kandal court to resolve
the standoff were stymied by the fact the courts were closed for the weekend of Jan
On Monday, January 15 Kandal Court Prosecutor Chheng Phat denied a request from the
DFW for a search warrant to inspect Everbright's mill on the grounds that the company
had already lodged a criminal complaint against DFW staff.
The following day - acting on a request from Everbright -Phat issued an injunction
preventing further inspection of the mill and resuming the standoff between the Everbright
and the DFW.
LLO officials try to get permission to inspect the Everbright Mill.
Everbright's recent actions help reinforce its already firmly-established record
of ignoring laws pertaining to Cambodia's forestry sector.
Last year's Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Forest Concession Review report - which
called the management of Cambodia's forestry sector "a complete systems failure"
- stated that Everbright has repeatedly breached its contract with the Government.
The ADB report criticized Everbright for failing to post $50,000 advance deposits
decreed by Article 13 of its Forest Timber License.
In addition, the ADB report noted that Everbright had failed to pay annual government
royalties amounting to $150,000 for its second and third years of harvesting.
DFW' Director General Ty Sokhun told the Post that Everbright paid the minimum royalties
for the year 2000.
However, he expressed frustration at Everbright's refusal to pay the $200,000 that
it is in arrears.
"How can we take action?" he said of Everbright's unwillingness to honor
the terms of its contract with the Cambodian government.
Everbright was also singled out in the ADB report for not practicing sustainable
forestry. The report noted that only between 10 to 15 years of cutting remained in
its concession area - about half of the 25 years required for surprised yield management.
In spite of its long record of financial and operational malfeasance, the company
has surprised GW and DFW representatives by filing a criminal complaint alleging
their investigation into the company's illegal logging activities was itself illegal.
On Jan 16 Kandal court issued an injunction halting further inspection and investigation
of Everbright's Kandal mill operations.
"[The Court] orders the Working Group of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries
and Wildlife to halt the search of logs inside Everbright plywood company in Kien
Svay District for a period of time because there's no apparent activity," the
injunction issued by Kandal Court Prosecutor Chheng Phat states.
Kandal's Vice Prosecutor Kry Sok Ie explained that "activity" was defined
as ongoing criminal activity such as illegal log transport or the processing of illegally
felled logs. He did not define the possible duration of the injunction's stated "period
The injunction was issued despite the fact that the day previous a joint DFW/GW team
had determined that 30 to 40 percent of logs stockpiled at Evergreen's log rest area
at Kratie's Romoul village were unstamped and thus illegal.
DFW's Director Ty Sokhun said his department will "try its best" to inspect
Everbright's mill, but any future action will be determined by findings of the Kandal
court. Sokhun said Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng is supporting DFW's position and
has asked the Ministry of Justice to intervene on its behalf.
GW's Buckrell said the evidence against Everbright is damning, but the cover up is
in full swing
"I do not expect to find anything out of order when the company eventually lets
us carry out an inspection. How can DFW and Global Witness be expected to carry out
any serious monitoring if the concessionaires won't cooperate?
"Everbright's court injunction against further inspection goes beyond non-cooperation
[and] amounts to complete obstruction. This company is clearly not serious about
the reforms that are being put in place," said Buckrell.
Immediate and unrestricted access to concessions and processing facilities for DFW
and independent monitors must be written into the new concession agreements, he added.
Sokhun said loopholes in the present forestry law make enforcement efforts by DFW
ineffective. "We need a new forestry law as soon as possible," Sokun said.
An aerial forest monitoring survey last month found logging trucks trying to make quick turn-offs to avoid being detected
Ky Tech, an attorney at Cambodia Law Firm acting for Everbright told the Post that
the case Everbright was launching against GW and DFW was "...not so serious."
The company only seeks an apology from Global Witness and the DFW officials who should
run an apology in Cambodian, Chinese and English-language newspapers.
"It is up to the court to decide whether or not to arrest Global Witness official.
It depends on the investigating judge.
"The company did not demand their arrest, it only seeks an apology and wants
the court to urge them to stop their abuse [of] the company," Tech said.