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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New logging contracts dwarf Samling's deal

New logging contracts dwarf Samling's deal

T HE controversial 800,000 hectare Samling logging deal has been dwarfed by a

recent 1.5 million hectare concession awarded to the Indonesian Panin

Group.

A second huge deal signed July 21 of more than 500,000 hectares,

to Malaysia's Grand Atlantic, is just another of 27 mainly foreign logging

companies who have either applied for license approval, or who already have

existing licenses.

The information was confirmed by Forestry Department

chief Cham Sarun.

Those waiting are six Taiwanese groups, another two

Malaysian companies based in Sarawak, a South Korean, two Singaporean, a

Japanese and two joint Australian-Cambodian groups.

It is not known how

much the contracts are worth. Samling's payments to the Royal Government for its

concession have never been publicized.

It is clear that after a brief

pause in legal logging following the December 30 ban, millions of hectares of

Cambodian forests are being earmarked for logging.

Licenses have already

been approved - and many are long-standing - for four Thai, three Malaysian

(including Samling and Grand Atlantic), two Indonesian, two joint

Cambodian/Japanese and Cambodian/Russian ventures, and two Cambodian

companies.

The deals - approved at Prime or senior ministerial level

(Samling was approved by the Council of Ministers) - are upsetting some forestry

officials.

They say the deals breach forest management

regulations.

Though Agriculture Minister Tao Seng Huor claims that

logging contracts are only going to companies which will replant Cambodian

forests, technical experts say the contracts are "not reassuring."

One

senior agricultural employee, a well-trained technician and former forestry

employee, said he feared good policies are being ignored in the rush to sign big

foreign contracts.

"Contracts now being approved by the two Prime

Ministers in many respects don't follow forestry management policy, in regard to

the levels of logging allowed," said the man, who requested

anonymity.

"Since French occupation we have had strict forestry

management policies, which were further developed in the Sangkum Rastry Niyum

(Sihanouk's) regime," he said.

"The Forestry Department has the necessary

skills and knowledge to regulate forest usage if it is allowed to carry out its

job," he said.

A second senior forestry official, who requested he not be

named, agreed that important technical policies were not being adhered to in the

wave of new contracts.

New concessions allow for every tree with a

circumference of 45cms to be cut. Forestry regulations allow only one tree in

every three with a circumference of 60cms or more to be cut.

Regulations

also call for 70 percent of large trees to remain standing for soil

conservation, regeneration and to supply seedlings. This is understood to be

missing from new contracts.

Forestry regulations also state that full

inventories of forest cover should be made before logging begins, however the

official said companies are surveying only the parts of the forest they wanted

to log.

"If you do it bit by bit you cannot ensure the regeneration of

the forest because we have no idea of the original cover," he

said.

Samling's license only binds the company to replace each tree

felled "if natural regeneration does not occur."

Another forestry

official said that contracts should be prepared and controlled by the Forestry

Department because forestry protection was a technical, not policy

matter.

The officer said: "Sometimes I lose hope because there should be

uniform technical protection measure for all forestry concessions so we can

protect our forests".

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