Activists are welcoming Prime Minister Hun Sen’s public vow to prevent logging and rosewood trafficking, but they also say it’s too little too late to have any serious impact on protecting Cambodia’s already decimated forests.
In a speech on Friday at the Ministry of Interior, Hun Sen said he was joining in the battle to protect the country’s precious rosewood, or Kronhung trees, which are high-value targets for loggers for the enticing amounts of money they fetch.
“I suggest wanting other wood beside Kronhung wood, and I also signed a circular letter on February 21 to promote this effort to avoiding logging and Kronhung wood trafficking. We also have to tell the countries that buy [illegal] wood from Cambodia to stop buying. It prevents logging,” he said.
Among rights groups that have monitored the pilfering of rosewood from Cambodia, however, the reception to his comments was lukewarm at best.
“This circular should have been issued six or seven years ago,” when there was rosewood left to save, said Chhim Savuth, program coordinator at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
“Now, not only rosewood trees are gone, but also the roots have been dug up.”
He also pointed out that, had something effective been in place six or seven years ago, many Cambodians crossing the border into Thailand on illegal logging journeys would not have been shot or detained. Instead, he offered, the government should focus on protecting specific threatened areas, such as Pursat province’s Cardamom mountains, Oral mountain in Kampong Speu province and Prey Lang forest in the north of the country, all bases from where rosewood timber is exported on its way to China.
Chan Soveth, senior investigator of rights group Adhoc, said that if there were large amounts of rosewood to protect remaining in Cambodian forests, then Cambodians wouldn’t go across the border to log in other countries.
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