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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Two million hectares to log

Two million hectares to log

Two million hectares to log

A T least 11 companies, with concessions to log more than 2 million hectares of

forest, are likely to be exempt from the government's national logging ban which

took effect April 30.

The Agriculture Ministry confirmed that contracts

with logging firms, such as that with Malaysia's Samling Corporation to log

800,000 hectares of trees, would be honored by the government.

Ministry

official Meas Son said 11 firms had been given logging concessions, totaling 2.4

million hectares of timber, since the end of the State of Cambodia regime in the

early 1990s.

But under new regulations being drawn up, concession holders

will have to prepare a "master plan", to ensure sustainable forest management,

before they can continue logging.

Meanwhile, Cambodia's 377 licensed

sawmills - processing about 920,000 cubic meters of timber a year - can remain

operating.

Khem Chanda, Deputy Director of Cabinet of the Ministry of

Agriculture, said the government would prefer the saw mills to switch to

producing finished products, rather than raw export timber.

Minister of

Agriculture Tao Senghour said the government would not close the mills, though

some might be closed by their owners.

Doubt remains about whether illegal

logging, particularly in Khmer Rouge-controlled areas, will be able to be

stopped.

Khem Chanda said that without the help of Thailand and other

neighboring countries, stopping illegal timber exports would be

difficult.

"I'm afraid that we cannot halt it... especially along the

Thai border," he said, adding that he hoped the Thai government would take moves

to stop traders dealing with the KR.

Tao Senghour was more positive,

saying the government had captured some KR areas known for logging, but

acknowledged "we need help as well".

Vietnam and Laos had pledged to

cooperate to enforce the logging ban, and he said he would seek a renewed

assurance from Thailand that it would do the same.

He said the government

would confiscate any illegally cut logs it found in Cambodia, and put them up

for auction to be processed.

He said he had sought the cooperation of the

Ministries of Interior and Defense to ensure the ban was enforced.

Ly

Seng Hong, Deputy-General staff of the Cambodian Royal Armed Forces, dismissed

claims that senior military officials were involved in the illicit logging

trade, but promised to fire any who were found to be.

He said military

and police numbers along Cambodia's borders had been boosted by 600 policemen

charged with upholding the logging ban.

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