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Timbergreen principal denies illegal logging

The majority shareholder of Timbergreen, a firm that has been the centre of illegal logging allegations, has denied the company is in any way involved in the illicit trade of timber.

The company has gained significant attention since prominent environmental activist Chut Wutty, who had made illegal logging allegations against them, was slain on April 26 in an incident that involved one of the firm’s security guards.

Timbergreen’s majority shareholder, Khieu Sarsileap, said yesterday that the firm only cleared logs in areas it was licensed to by the government and urged anyone with evidence to the contrary to bring it to her.

“We are [logging] only in the reservoir, and even in the reservoir itself, we can’t finish it up; we have to do it fast because we have a contract,” she said.

Timbergreen is licensed to clear the reservoirs of two dam sites in Koh Kong province: the Lower Stung Russey Chrum in Mondul Seima district and the Stung Tatai dam in Thma Bang district.

Khieu Sarsileap said illegal logging is a problem throughout the country, but that if anyone involved in illicit trade claimed to work for her company, they were lying.

“Those people are everywhere, and if they just say they are from Timbergreen, how do we know?” she said.

She added that the firm’s vehicles clearly display the company logo and that its operation at the Lower Stung Russey Chrum dam site is closely monitored by the conservation NGO Wildlife Alliance.

Wildlife Alliance runs a conservation programme in the Lower Cardamom forest and the organisation’s CEO, Suwanna Gauntlett, said yesterday that while illegal logging is rampant in the area, Timbergreen is not responsible.

“We are interfacing with all the private companies that are operating there – that’s how we know who it is, what permits they have and what they’re doing,” she said.

Though “shocking” amounts of logging are taking place in the forest, it is being conducted by a large number of individuals, is not coordinated and an inspection of Timbergreen’s warehouse revealed very little timber.

“Everybody is doing the illegal logging; you know, we had around 15 big cases and around 20 small cases since the beginning of the year just of Krunyung [rosewood].”

Rosewood is a luxury timber that fetches between US$5,000 and $8,000 per cubic metre in Cambodia and is heavily logged throughout the country.

Chut Wutty, the late director of the Natural Resource Protection Group, had alleged that Timbergreen was buying rosewood from loggers outside of their permit sites in the Cardamom Mountains.

Officials have concluded that Chut Wutty was shot by military police officer In Rattana, who was attempting to confiscate photos from him and was then accidentally killed himself as Timbergreen security guard Ran Boroth tried to disarm him.

Ran Boroth reportedly demanded Chut Wutty give him his camera’s memory card.

Khieu Sarsileap said Ran Boroth – who has been charged with unintentional murder – no longer works for Timbergreen and that the case is not connected to her company.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Boyle at david.boyle@phnompenhpost.com

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