A tree bound for the new National Assembly building.
The independent monitor of illegal logging has released a mostly positive report
about the government's response to forest crimes during the second quarter of 2005,
despite spending most of its time focused on the transport of already felled timber.
Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) spent 57 percent of its field time verifying
log measurements and checking the movements of 6,895 logs, according to their August
18 report covering April to June.
In January the government overturned a moratorium on transporting felled timber,
and during the second quarter SGS checked the movement of logs carried out by 14
SGS reported that 1,953 logs had been taken from the controversial Tumring concession,
as well as the Colexium IIA concession (1,565 logs), Colexium IA (1,132) and Samrong
"No illegal log movements were detected during the quarter," stated the
report, which was released publicly a month after submission to the government for
The royalties on these transported logs totaled $1.8 million as of July 7, according
to an appendix to the SGS report signed by Kith Bunna, deputy director of the Forest
Affairs Office at the Forestry Administration.
Royalty payments were not independently verified by SGS, said director Robert Tennent.
Officials at the Ministry of Economy and Finance said Secretary of State Ouk Rabun
and another secretary of state, Aun Porn Moniroth, were responsible for monitoring
the incoming budget. Neither could be reached by the Post to confirm the royalties
had been paid to the government.
In May, an SGS field inspection team traveled to Ratanakkiri to see trees marked
for felling in a "special domestic coupe" set aside for providing luxury-grade
timber for the new National Assembly building.
"The team observed a large area of encroachment adjacent to the special coupe
area ... [and] there was a regrettable lack of forest management skills displayed
by the people conducting the land clearing, with the team observing many large and
valuable trees which had been felled and burned," the report stated.
An SGS analysis of 1,178 reports of forest crimes between December 1 and May 31 showed
that Kratie led the provinces with the most incidents, followed by Pursat and Kampong
"SGS found that the Forestry Administration and Ministry of Environment responded
to reports from NGOs and SGS, and took action in all cases," stated the report.
However, Mike Davis, a campaigner for Global Witness, the former independent monitor,
said the new report shows little or no evidence of progress.
"The report says that the government has acted on all SGS recommendations, but
it doesn't say anything about the extremely unambitious level of these recommendations,
or even if they actually have been successfully implemented," Davis said.
The latest SGS report offers no questioning or criticism of those in power, but casts
blame for forest crimes in the direction of the rural poor, he said.
Mogens Christensen, head of the international donor's Working Group for Natural Resources
with the Ministry of Environment, offered a gentler view.
"SGS has performed a really good job within their mandate, but it also transpires
that not all aspects of forestry crime can be captured by SGS, and in that context
an NGO such as Global Witness plays an important role," Christensen said.
SGS Director Robert Tennent defended the organization's role, saying the company
worked within its terms of reference and was listened to by the government.
"Our brief is not to go out and find illegal logging, but to monitor the situation
and then make the appropriate recommendations to the local authorities," Tennent