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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Timber trade to be strictly controlled: Tao Seng Huor

Timber trade to be strictly controlled: Tao Seng Huor

Timber trade to be strictly controlled: Tao Seng Huor

The Editor,

Following the article published in your newspaper, dated 5 - 18 April 1996 concerning

the exportation of wood to Thailand, I am obliged to make a clarification with regard

to a number of inaccuracies that your publication carried.

The meeting of 18 January 1996, which you referred to, between His Excellency Chavalit

Yongchaiyuth, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Royal Government

of Thailand, and myself, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of the Royal

Government of Cambodia, was held for the purpose of settling some questions of the

illegal exportation of wood on the Khmer-Thai border.

The procedures defined are perfectly clear and respected. The Control Committee for

Exports and Auctions of the Royal Cambodian Government has, in effect, received numerous

requests from Thai companies to export wood, but they concern wood cut before the

30 April 1995 cut-off date. The bilateral cooperation between the two countries is

functioning perfectly at this level and the Royal Cambodian Government has already

proposed the creation of a mixed Khmer-Thai committee to effectively organize its

control.

The Thai companies cited by your newspaper have received an agreement in principle

from the two Prime Ministers to export some cut wood, the sum total of these requests

is around one million cubic meters and the Royal Cambodian Government has sent, as

seen by the decisions taken, to the Royal Thai Government the total of these requests

with the names of all the companies concerned.

Your article forgets to note that an agreement in principle is not a contract, the

Control Committee and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries must in

turn, while referring to the letters of the two Prime Ministers, formulate the conditions

and put in place the means of control that the export companies are constrained to

follow before a contract is signed:

1) Each company is required to present itself to the Forestry Department of

the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to reveal to technicians and

forestry agents the details of their dossier in order to control, from the point

of view of quality and quantity, the wood in question. This first step enables (the

Ministry) to verify that it is really proved to be old wood as well as to avoid any

new wood.

2) The parties responsible and forestry agents investigate when in place and

establish a rapport which will enable them to verify the correctness of the declarations

of each company.

3) The companies then open a letter of credit in favor of the Ministry of

Economics and Finance. Then they present a bank deposit and finally the contract

is established and signed between the Ministry of Economics and Finance and the Ministry

of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the company in question. At this stage

the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Control Committee officially

inform the Royal Government of Thailand on this contract.

4) [On] the day of the exportation a double control is put in place on the

border. A committee composed of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

(Department of Forestry), the Ministry of Economics and Finance (Customs Department),

the Ministry of Defense (Headquarters of the Royal Khmer Army) and a representative

of the Ambassador of Cambodia to Thailand, effectively control the quantity and quality

exported. An analogous control is instituted the same day from the Thai side.

Your article also put forth several figures which I must contest. First of all the

volume of 331,000 cubic meters of wood already cut is absolutely not known by the

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

I would remind you that the "Khmer Rouge Government", cited by Global Witness,

is outside the law and, as a consequence, the Royal Cambodian Government does not

recognize the declarations or the activities of these rebels.

One of the subjects of the 18 January meeting, mentioned previously, dealt precisely

with the measures to take to fight against these illegal exports realized by the

Khmer Rouge.

I take this opportunity to thank the Royal Thai Government for its efforts in this

direction and its aid in the solution to this question.

I also ask you to note again that the receipts from auctions, gained from the volume

of wood seized or recuperated since the creation of the Control Committee, are paid

directly to the account of the Ministry of Economics and Finance. The sum obtained

until today totals $9,837,000.

The price put forward, of $35 per cubic meter, is absolutely false and does not accurately

reflect reality.

The passage, which is sourced to Global Witness, explaining the sharing of benefits

from the sale of wood is a pure invention. I am astonished that your newspaper could

relay such assertions which are an attack on the honor of the Royal Cambodian Government.

The two Prime Ministers are not and should not in any case be mixed with assertions

so undignified of their rank and so foreign from the truth.

Finally I inform you that if it happens that some new wood cutting takes place in

spite of all the existing controls, the wood will be seized and sold by auction.

The giving of concessions, you should understand, I hope, is within the domain of

many Cambodian authorities. the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is

not the only decision-maker in this arena. the administrative procedures put in place

by the Royal Government are the guarantees for the high respect of the law and of

the environment.

Please accept, Mr. Editor, my distinguished greetings.
- Tao Seng Huor, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

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