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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thai-KR link to get public airing in States

Thai-KR link to get public airing in States

Thai-KR link to get public airing in States

E NVIRONMENTAL group Global Witness will be taking further damning evidence of

Thai business involvement with the Khmer Rouge to Washington, D.C. to lobby

American politicians.

The London-based NGO is confident that their

evidence will increase the behind-the-scenes pressure that Washington is said to

have been exerting on Bangkok over allegations of Thai dealings with the

outlawed Khmer Rouge.

"The Thais have always denied these charges, and

everyone has just accepted their excuses," Global Witness investigator Simon

Taylor said. "They simply can't sit back and deny it now. Nor can any other

country."

"The United States has legislation that allows the President to

sanction any country or organization that deals with the Khmer Rouge... we are

confident we can get our information on [Secretary of State] Warren

Christopher's desk."

Taylor said Global Witness had evidence enough to

prove that the Thais were not only dealing with an illegal organization, but as

signatories to the Paris Peace Accords "were meddling in the internal affairs of

another country."

He said the Foreign Office in London had told Global

Witness that they believed the Thais were sincere about closing their border to

KR trade. "We will be going back to them to ask what they are going to do about

it now," he said.

"The members of the [UN] Security Council should be

interested in this issue," he said.

The NGO had a copy of a permit,

signed by Thai Interior Minister Sana Khajornprasart, allowing Thai company Chao

Praya Akanay to import 30,000 cubic meters of logs from Cambodia.

"This

directly contravenes the Thai border closure and the Cambodian log ban. [Chao

Praya Akanay] admits to paying off the Khmer Rouge, and the husband of the

company's manager is a Thai Army lieutenant stationed near Nuan Sung," Taylor

said.

Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai - in response to the second

report Global Witness has published on the illegal timber trade between Cambodia

and Thailand - denied the claims.

Leekpai was quoted by The Nation as

saying: "If we knew logs were coming from the Khmer Rouge, we would not allow

them in." And Thai Army Commander-in-Chief General Wimol Wongawanich said: "We

are talking about logs, not toothpicks. How can we hide them in a

suitcase?"

Global Witness investigator Patrick Alley said that the Thai

government was either ill-informed or deliberately misleading the

public.

"(Wimol) is right, logs aren't toothpicks. If it is so easy for

us to visit border areas and see hundreds of trucks loaded with logs coming in

from Cambodia, how is it they (the Thai authorities) can't?" he

said.

Alley said that the NGO was prepared to give the Thai authorities

all its evidence, which include tapes of Thai businessmen discussing paying the

KR for passage, documents, photographs and videos. All the same evidence will be

presented to politicians in the United States.

Fall-out from the NGO's

efforts to lobby Washington is also likely to effect Phnom Penh. "We do not want

to stop international aid (to Cambodia), in fact we recognize the need to

increase it," Alley said. "But why should the ICORC countries continue to

subsidize this?"

Global Witness wanted the illicit Thai/Cambodian border

trade stopped, he said.

Taylor said: "We are not Westerners telling the

Thais to do this or that... at the end of the day we are just asking the Thais

to do what they say they are doing, and close their border."

They would

continue to monitor the Thai border "and in future we are going to be looking at

claims that the Cambodian government is getting more logs out through Vietnam

and Laos," Alley said.

The NGO's second investigation, in May this year,

found that the Chao Phraya Irrawaddy Company had unloaded about 3,800 logs from

Koh Kong at the Map Ta Phut deep sea port near Rayong.

The Kalapandha

harbour in Trat was unloading about 1,000 Cambodian logs a week, in direct

contravention of the logging ban, they said.

The NGO evidenced more

contraventions, of hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of timber being freshly

cut under Cambodian government concession and in Khmer Rouge controlled areas.

The logs were transported by road across the border, despite the Thai

government's pledge, they said. The areas were from Ban Hat Lek to

Aranyaprathet; Nuan Sung and Bo Rai in Trat; and Pong Nam Ron in

Chantaburi.

Thai companies said the Cambodian government took about $95

per cubic meter of timber in tax. Depending on the timber quality, a cubic meter

could sell for up to $1,000, Alley said.

Global Witness estimates that

the Khmer Rouge revenue alone would be "tens of millions" each month.

The

Cambodian government appeared to be sincere in its efforts to ban timber exports

to Thailand, despite corruption among local officials in Koh Kong and at border

check points, the NGO report said.

Illegal trade would continue unless

Thailand clamps down on the activities of its private businesses, it said, and

fully cooperated with the Cambodian government to enforce the ban.

"It is

not in Thailand's interest to do an environmental hatchet job on it's neighbor.

Environmental destruction doesn't recognize national borders, and Thailand will

be just as affected as Cambodia will be, and for what? Just the vested interest

of maybe 60 companies," Taylor said.

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