GLOBAL Witness is puzzled over continued denials by Cambodian authorities that there
is illegal and large-scale logging happening in the Kingdom.
"You see these Vietnamese loggers?" Charmian Gooch says, presenting a series
of photographs (one pictured below). "They very kindly gave us a lift out of
the jungle in their truck.
"They'd been logging there for months. They were really happy to see us. They
asked whether we had any cigarettes!"
Charmian Gooch, recently returned with Patrick Alley from Ratanakiri, says RCAF military
control the border to Vietnam and are hiring Vietnamese loggers to cut trees.
A recent deal signed by the two prime ministers to allow the export of 15,000 cubic
meters of "old logs" had resulted only in a "frenzied effort"
to cut as much wood as possible, they say.
"The sap was pouring out of some of these trees. They were cut less than an
hour before," says Alley, adding they visited 21 stockpiles containing about
10,000 cubic meters of timber.
"On 23 Jan, First Prime Minister Ung Huot visited Ratanakiri and called for
the development of sustainable forestry operations, which is great," says Taylor.
"But it's not much good when his co-Prime Minister signs away the whole province
to Pheapimex and [local businessman] Teng Bunma."
The focus of the group's present investigation is the Cambodian military's involvement
in logging. "The armed forces are financially independent and call the shots
in the areas they control. Everyone from villagers to provincial governors are afraid
to speak out," Taylor says. "It really is out of control."
Taylor visited Bokor National Park in Kampot, "only last year worthy of World
Heritage status", and found it "being carved up by at least five groups
from military division 44 and the ex-KR from Phnom Vour".
The park is also logged by the Longday company with the help of soldiers from the
Pich Nil Jungle Training School, he says.
Taylor himself took photographs (one shown above) of one of the thirty or so saws
being operated by soldiers living in at least five separate "mobile sawmill