The government should revoke Try Pheap’s timber collection licences, a coalition of NGOs and indigenous groups said yesterday, following allegations that the tycoon made a profit of more than $220 million in just three years illegally logging the Cardamom Mountains.
Representatives of the group said the level at which the nation’s forest were being decimated was a “national tragedy”.
“[W]e wish to express our great concerns over the dramatic decline of forest resources in Cambodia in the last two years,” they said in a statement issued at a press conference in the capital.
Central to the decimation, speakers said, was the freedom that Pheap has to collect timber from land concessions, including dam sites, as well as confiscated timber from the Forestry Administration and the Ministry of Environment.
On October 10, the Post reported details of a leaked conservation group’s report alleging that Pheap made $227 million in three years using permits in the Cardamoms as cover to move protected rosewood felled outside licensed areas. But it is a problem that stretches across the country, activists said.
“They say they are just collecting luxury timber from the stocks of the Foresty Administration,” said ethnic Kuoy villager Svay Phoeun, a representative of the Prey Lang community.
“So why are all kinds of luxury timber being transported from all corners of Prey Lang? I would like the government to revoke the licences of [Pheap’s] company.”
Pheap’s influence also provided protection for a large number of businesspeople connected to the illegal trade, said Mom Sokim, an anti-forest crimes activist from Kratie province.
The NGOs also noted a sharp rise in the number of illegal logging cases. About 1,890 had been recorded this year, a statement said, up from 535 during 2012 and 2013 combined.
Thorn Sarath, director of forestry administration at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said yesterday that the group should write a letter to his ministry if it wants the government to consider taking action against Pheap.