K OH KONG - A row is brewing over Phnom Penh's insistence on placing its own
logging inspectors into Cambodia's timber-rich provinces.
provincial chief indicated the move was undermining the authority of local
Koh Kong deputy governor Van Kirirot said: "[Phnom
Penh] doesn't trust us to do our jobs. They think the people from the ministries
are good, but I know them to be corrupt."
Kirirot said there was no
co-operation between provincial inspectors and inspectors sent from various
government ministries in Phnom Penh.
The "city" inspectors - from the
ministries of agriculture, interior, defense and environment - have been sent to
Ratanakiri, Kratie, Stung Treng, Pursat and Kompong Som, as well as Koh
There have also been allegations that illegally cut logs have been
exported out of Koh Kong province under areas specifically controlled by "city"
inspectors. These claims come from policemen who have witnessed instances
Kirirot said: "If they let us do it, I promise not to allow
any illegal exports of logs... I would leave my position."
that they should take out the central government's inspectors or put them under
our supervision. We should have one power, not two."
"They should not use
their mandate to divide this province into different sections to
He said his local inspectors worked for a few days after the
government's April 30 ban, but were quickly replaced by ministerial
While the bickering about each group's authority and areas of
control continued, "some people were getting rich very quickly" from the
continued export of logs, he said.
"We are finding it very difficult to
work here. We have many different groups and they all have guns," Kirirot said.
"They are not listening to each other or attempting to find a good
solution to the problem; and nobody will accept responsibility."
Penh only sees the negative things such as provincial soldiers selling the
timber, but that is wrong," he said.
"You see, sometimes (our soldiers)
do not have enough money to buy food or medicine. We had (provincial) approval
to sell certain amounts of timber to buy supplies," Kirirot said.
course, some military officers are corrupt."
He told the Post that in
April a major in the provincial military was sacked when he was found to be
illegally selling permission for logging exports.
Kirirot said that his
provincial staff were being blamed for the illegal exports of timber.
Cambodian military boats, with 60 armed men, are patrolling Koh Kong coastal
waters, but military chiefs say many island entrances are difficult to
However, the Post talked to RCAF soldiers who confirmed that Thai
boats loaded with logs had sailed passed police positions.
Van Rith, a
government soldier, claimed to have seen thousands of cubic meters of timber
being loaded onto a Thai ferry at Kbal Chai on April 5, about 70 kms northwest
of Koh Kong town, and transported to the sea.
He said that the area was
alternatively controlled by government soldiers and Khmer Rouge. Thai companies
also protected their own operations in Koh Kong with guns, he said.
don't know what company has been dealing with the Cambodian military sea-guards
but I know they were dealing with illegal logs, yet they were allowed to
Yon Min, Major of Koh Kong provincial military rejected the
Min said that it was very difficult for his military to
operate along the Koh Kong coast which had many islands and difficult entrances,
especially the Thmar Baing, Sre Ambel and Botom Sakor districts.
people accuse that we still allow timber exports. It is not true."
(logging) company owners know very well that our government will not allow
logging exports any more."
Min said small boats, pretending to be fishing
craft, were taking between 30 and 40 cubic meters of timber out of Cambodia at a
time. "It is a small quantity, but if many people are dealing it could be a huge
problem," he said.
According to Koh Kong agriculture department director
Hun Bun, up to 14,000 hectares of the province's forest was included in the
government's "master plan" of logging concessions.
A report said that the
province had exported 113,000 cubic meters in 1994; and in just four months to
April 30 it had exported 83,000 cubic meters. Villagers told the Post that
timber trucks had been operating 24-hours a day up till the April 30