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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Transportation ban lifted, logs back on the move

Transportation ban lifted, logs back on the move

Transportation ban lifted, logs back on the move

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Some of the old logs that have been cleared for sale at the Kingwood plant along the Mekong.

F

orestry watchdog Global Witness is alarmed that the passing of time appears to have

smoothed out legal issues concerning thousands of old logs stockpiled around the

country.

The 3,500 illegally cut logs that were confiscated after the logging and transportation

moratoriums in 2002 are once again on the back of trucks, being delivered to sawmills

and distributed back into the market place.

Transportation resumed January 24 and is expected to take at least two months to

complete said SGS, the government's independent forestry monitor, who are validating

log volumes during the process.

Global Witness, the government's former independent forestry monitor, said the World

Bank brokered the move in agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and

Fisheries, as well as members of the international donor community who had once been

opposed to such a move.

"Bank officials finally persuaded the international donor community to endorse

ministers' demands that [the transport ban] be lifted at a meeting in December,"

Global Witness said in a statement.

At the December Consultative Group meeting, the government and donors agreed to allow

the resumption of transportation for logs "which have already been inventoried

and for which royalties have already been paid," the group said.

Global Witness said it is unclear whether the royalties - $54 per cubic meter for

grade-two logs - have been paid or not.

"The World bank-funded forest sector monitor SGS is validating log volumes,

but taking no steps to investigate the legal origin of the wood, nor whether royalties

have been paid," they said. "Logs don't become legal just because they

lie around for two and a half years."

The grade-two logs, ranging from two to six years old, were either felled in forest

concessions prior to the January 2002 cutting moratorium or confiscated "under

the guise of plantation development" following the ban, according to Global

Witness.

Some of the trees are contentious resin trees confiscated from the Tum Ring land

concession that were being used by local people as a main source of income. The 2002

Forestry Law prohibits the cutting of all resin-producing trees.

Global Witness said they were concerned the new movement of the logs will encourage

a new wave of illegal logging in the country.

"The transport process is poorly supervised with ample opportunity for companies

to move illegally harvested fresh logs into the supply chain," GW said in a

statement.

Robert Tennent, SGS forestry project manager, said they have three teams of two people

out in the field monitoring the logs' movement, and they were working closely with

the Forestry Administration "so we don't get swamped".

"We look at what is listed as stockpiled, is stockpiled, and what leaves on

trucks arrives at the mills," he said. "We don't follow them all the way

but we've done pretty much 100 percent on what is leaving and similar again on what

has arrived."

Tennent said there is some concern that the logs were illegally cut, but it is now

a government issue.

"You might argue that it's tainted because it was a resin tree, but now it's

a dead resin tree. Global Witness's concern is it's encouraging this illegal activity.

I can understand their concern, but I liken it to confiscated state property, and

what they do to it is up to the state."

Danida's Mogens Christensen, head of the Working Group on Natural Resources, said

the donor community had not changed their position.

They had written letters in mid-2003 to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and

Fisheries opposing the transportation of old logs with specific regard to trees felled

in the Tum Ring land concession.

"Donors cannot interfere with government's common revenue [royalties],"

Christensen said.

Tennent said once the concession companies have finished moving all the logs the

moratorium on log transportation will resume.

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